Did you know that heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S.? With temperatures rising across much of the country, heat is a bigger workplace hazard than ever before.
There are steps you can take to lower the risk of heat-related illness and injury among your employees.
1. Provide heat stress training to all employees. Address worker risk, prevention and symptoms. Teach employees to monitor themselves, AS WELL AS their co-workers. Remind them how important this is, since individuals suffering from heat stress may not recognize the severity of their own symptoms. You should also review treatment, including an emergency action plan and the location of any emergency supplies.
2. Smart scheduling is important. This may seem obvious, but it requires your attention and commitment. The best way to prevent heat illness is to make the work environment cooler. You should monitor weather reports daily and reschedule jobs with high heat exposure to cooler times of the day. When possible, schedule routine maintenance and repair projects for the cooler seasons.
3. In hot conditions, dehydration can set in quickly. That’s why frequent water breaks are essential. Put water in convenient, visible locations, preferably in shade or air conditioning near the work area. Remind your employees to avoid drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar.
Some of your staff, by default, will need additional monitoring. For example, any worker wearing personal protective equipment is at an increased risk when the outside temperature exceeds 70 degrees Fahrenheit, or when he or she is working at high energy levels. Establish a routine to monitor these individuals by periodically checking them for signs and symptoms of overexposure.
4. You can’t always help the fact that your work environment is hot…but you can help your workers get used to the heat progressively. Try gradually increasing exposure over a five-day work period. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests beginning with 50% of the normal workload and time spent in the heat and gradually building up to 100 percent by the fifth day.
5. As an employer, you should stay educated about heat-related illness and how to prevent it. OSHA’s heat illness website and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are excellent resources. Bookmark these sites and visit them often, particularly as the warmer months approach.