When an employer can’t fulfill labor needs by employing U.S. citizens, they can use the H-2A program. This allows employers to bring foreign temporary workers to the country.
The H-2A visa comes with many legal standards. Here’s a brief overview of the U.S. Department of Labor’s standards for H-2A housing and accommodations.
Mandatory Free Housing for H-2A Workers
Employers using the H-2A program must provide free housing for temporary workers. Employers can use public housing accommodations, like hotels, or rental properties. Public housing must meet certain health and safety requirements to be lawful.
Health and Safety Requirements for Rental and Public Housing
As an H-2A employer, you’re required to meet the following health and safety standards. These apply if your H-2A employees are housed in rentals or public accommodations, like hotels and motels. Local and state standards may also apply.
Minimum Space and Storage Requirements
Each value listed is a minimum for employee living spaces, storage areas, and sleeping quarters. This means that these values must be greater than or equal to the minimums listed to be lawful.
The minimum space requirements are as follows:
- Sleeping Spaces: 50 square feet per person, 7-foot ceiling
- Space Between Beds: 36 inches
- Space Between Beds and Floors: 12 inches
- Space Between Bunk Beds: 48 inches
- Space Between Each Bunk: 27 inches
- Multi-Use Spaces: 100 square feet per person
In addition, each sleeping space is required to have storage facilities for each employee. Employees must be able to put clothing and other personal items into storage each night. Lockers are the most common option.
Cooking and Kitchen Requirements
H-2A employers must provide adequate cooking facilities to employees free of charge. This means that if you’re not providing other types of meals for employees, they will need safe and sanitary kitchen facilities.
The cooking and kitchen facility requirements are as follows:
- Shared Stove Ratio: One stove per 10 people (or 2 families)
- Food Storage Facilities: Kept sanitary
- Food Preparation Facilities: Kept sanitary
- Cooking Equipment: Installed according to state and local requirements
These requirements mostly apply to rentals for H-2A employees, as hotels and motels have their own meal accommodations.
Heating and Water Supply Requirements
These requirements apply to residential heating, water heating, cooking, and water supply facilities.
The water supply requirements are as follows:
- Purposes: Drinking, cooking, laundry, and bathing
- Water Supply Minimum: 35 gallons per person per day
- Distribution Lines: Operate at normal pressure to all fixtures with simultaneous use
- Drinking Fountains: One or more per 100 occupants
These requirements constitute an “adequate and convenient water supply” according to federal regulations. In addition, all equipment must be installed according to state and local regulations.
Bathing, Laundry, Hygiene, and Toileting Facility Requirements
Personal hygiene is important for each employee’s safety and comfort. These requirements address all personal grooming and cleanliness facilities, like laundry and bathing.
The following are the hygiene facility requirements:
- Adequate toilet facilities for housing capacity
- Adequate supply of toilet paper in each bathroom
- Sanitary bathrooms with daily cleaning (or more)
- Waterproof floors
- Smooth but not slippery floors
- Floor drains
- Adequate supply of hot and cold running water
- Drying facilities for clothing
In addition, indoor equipment is to maintain the interior temperatures at 70 degrees Fahrenheit or above in cold weather.
Laundry, handwashing, and bathing ratios are as follows:
- Handwashing: One sink per 6 people (or one family)
- Showerheads: One per 10 people
- Laundry Facilities: One per 30 people
One “laundry facility” is classified as a washer with a dryer, whether they’re single units or combined.
Electricity requirements ensure that your occupants are able to carry out activities of daily living. Keep these standards in mind as you house your H-2A employees.
The habitable room minimum requirements are:
- Light Fixture: One on the ceiling
- Outlets: One in a convenient spot
- Light Placing: 30 foot-candles 30 inches from the floor
A foot-candle is a measure of illumination saturation in a room. Familiarize yourself with what this looks like when installing light fixtures.
Laundry, toilet, and other shared room minimums are:
- Fixtures: One ceiling or wall light
- Light Placing: 20 foot-candles 30 inches from the floor
The light placings are minimums to ensure adequate saturation of the room.
Garbage Disposal Requirements
The requirements for garbage and waste disposal are as follows:
- Clean garbage containers
- Garbage containers emptied when full
- Garbage containers emptied at least twice per week
- Effective animal, pest, and insect vector prevention measures
Your pest control measures must effectively keep pests out of the interior of the building at all times.
Meeting Standards for H-2A Living Accommodations
Brand yourself as a quality H-2A employer by following these federal regulations. Familiarize yourself with the criteria so you can provide safe, clean living facilities to your temporary employees.
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