State workers had better not look at the solar eclipse on Monday, a new memo from the state’s HR department says.
The leaked memo, which was sent to managers in North Carolina state agencies Thursday morning, asked them to tell their employees not to look at the eclipse if they’re at work. It also forbids managers from encouraging their employees to go to eclipse-watching events.
The eclipse will be visible over parts of North Carolina, mostly in the western part of the state, starting at around 2:30 p.m. Monday and lasting around 15 minutes.
“Employees should be instructed that they may only observe the solar eclipse while on an official break from job duties and not during regular work hours,” the memo says. “In addition, agencies should not encourage or endorse any solar eclipse watching events or allow employees physical access to areas that are not associated with their regular work duties in order to view the solar eclipse.”
A main concern is people hurting themselves – perhaps by looking at the sun without protective glasses – and then filing a claim for worker’s compensation.
The memo came from John Bogner, who is the director of the safety and workers’ compensation division in the state Office of State Human Resources.
“All state agencies should be aware that employees observing the solar eclipse while in the course and scope of employment may incur compensable work related injuries while doing so,” Bogner wrote.
One group of state employees the memo doesn’t cover: teachers. Some schools won’t have started classes by Monday, and some schools are canceling class. But it’s possible that some teachers have planned lessons around the eclipse.
“This does not apply to teachers,” said Melody Hunter-Pillion, communications director for the state’s HR department. “We think it’s a really exciting time for education.”
She said the memo was mainly about making sure people knew about the dangers of looking at the eclipse.
People can permanently damage their eyes by looking at the sun, even during an eclipse if they lack the proper safety equipment.
Hunter-Pillion said that if employees get approved leave, they can certainly go watch the eclipse – just not on the job.
“We’re not trying to cut down on anyone enjoying this once in a lifetime experience, which it really is,” she said.
To safely view the eclipse, people will need special glasses or other protective contraptions, like a solar lens for a camera. You can even make your own protection with household items.
People who drive somewhere to get a better view of the eclipse (with proper eyewear, of course) could also be in for non-sun-related accidents.
Traffic is expected to be heavy on Monday. Western North Carolina will be home to the state’s best eclipse views, and some small towns in the mountains are calling in extra help from the state.
But even Triangle highways, and roads further east along I-95, will likely see traffic jams Monday, the state has warned.
Doran: 919-836-2858; Twitter: @will_doran