Summer is a great time to get a lot of outside work done. For businesses in industries such as construction or agriculture, it can be their busiest time of year. However, it is also the hottest time of year. Every year, thousands of workers become sick from heat exposure. Heat illness can be deadly, but they are completely preventable.
Employees who are exposed to these hot or humid conditions are at a high risk of heat illness. The risk increases if they are doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective gear or equipment. In addition to this, newer employees are at an elevated risk because they are not used to working in such conditions. Employers need to take steps to help acclimate employees who will be working in the heat.
The best way to acclimate employees is to consider the weather, workload, and condition of the workers and adjust work practices as needed. Encourage your employees to drink plenty of water, take breaks as needed, provide shade, or cool off areas, and monitor the temperature and workers’ status hourly to make sure they are not getting overheated. Train your employees and supervisors on how to control heat stress and to recognize the symptoms of heat illness.
To protect themselves, your employees should be prepared, educated, and take the proper safety precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses. As the employer, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have all employees had the training to prevent, recognize, and treat heat-related illness?
- Is there a plan for adjusting work schedules to ensure employees have sufficient breaks to prevent over-exerting themselves?
- Is there access to shade or cool resting locations?
- Is there a plan to have water readily available for the workers?
- Are employees being encouraged to drink one cup of water every fifteen to twenty minutes?
- Can employees explain their location if they need to seek medical attention?
- Are employees gradually increasing their exposure time in hot environmental conditions over a set time period?
- Are employees encouraged to watch out for one another for heat-related illness symptoms?
It is important to remember that the higher the temperatures, the higher the humidity, direct sun, heavy workloads, and employees who are older or not unaccustomed to heat are more likely to become ill from the heat. Make sure that your employees are drinking water, even when they are not thirsty, they are getting rest periods in cool areas, and they are watching for heat illness symptoms.
If any of your employees do show signs of heat-related illness, call 911 immediately and move the worker to a cool, shady location until help arrives. Provide fans and ice to help cool the worker down and if they are able, provide cool drinking water. Make sure the employee is not left unattended until help arrives.
Summer heat and humidity are vigorous weather conditions that many employees face. Make sure to take steps to protect both yourself and your workers from the dangers of the summer sun.