Summer is here and the temperatures are already soaring; summertime safety is critical for employees working outside in the heat. The Vested HR Risk Department wants to make sure that your company and staff are protected this summer with these training & safety tips.
Based in Florida and getting our start in construction, we know that safety is paramount when working outside, especially as it begins to feel like 110°F in the shade. As a business owner, you must be proactive to keep your employees with outdoor roles safe – during the summer and all year round. (Proper precautions aren’t just a seasonal HR task.)
Let’s reduce the risk of workplace injuries and rising worker’s comp rates by preventing heat-related accidents.
Acclimate to the Heat
In addition to staying hydrated with lots of water, staff working in higher temperatures need to acclimate – building a tolerance to working in the heat over time. Otherwise, you may run the risk of heat stress.
Use some of their first few workdays with HR functions and onboarding in addition to outdoor work time. OSHA recommends starting with 50% of the normal workload and time spent outside, then building up to 100%.
Risks of Heat Illness
Heat illness can result from exposure to heat potentially causing:
- Heat Rash, the most common in hot work environments and is caused by sweating. It looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
- Heat Stroke, a medical emergency that may result in death. Symptoms are confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures.
- Heat Syncope (fainting), dizziness that occurs when standing for too long or suddenly standing up after sitting or lying. Lack of acclimatization is one factor that contributes to heat syncope.
- ️Heat Exhaustion, look for headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, dehydration, heavy sweating, and body temperature greater than 100.4°F
- Heat Cramps, these muscle pains are usually caused by loss of salts and fluid during sweating.
Helping Workers Avoid Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke
The risks of heat illness are very real and potentially deadly. In soaring temperatures, take proper precautions to protect your employees. We suggest:
Provide heat stress training
Address topics including worker risk prevention, symptoms (including the importance of workers monitoring themselves and coworkers), treatment, and personal protective equipment.
Schedule ‘hot’ jobs for the cooler part of the day
Make the work environment cooler. This is the best way to prevent heat illness! Monitor weather reports daily and reschedule jobs with high heat exposure to cooler times in the morning or evening.
Implementing a work-rest cycle program for outside jobs may be suitable for your team. And for some strenuous jobs, they may be required. The ACGIH specifies how to measure heat and humidity as well as outlines suggested work-rest cycles for different workloads in hotter environments.
At the very least, should the job require strenuous physical activity in the summer heat, have workers wear loose-fitting clothing, drink plenty of water, and avoid drinking dehydrating beverages (like caffeinated drinks).
Provide rest periods with water breaks
When working in the summer sun, the body may produce as much as two to three gallons of sweat. It’s important to remind employees to drink 5 to 7 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when working outside. That will help fluids to be replaced as they are lost.
Provide workers with plenty of cool water. This should be easily accessible in convenient, visible locations in shade or air conditioning. Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar when working in hot temperatures.
HR Risk Management Tip: Remind your team NOT to depend on thirst signals for when or how much water to drink. Thirst is a poor indicator of the body’s need for fluids.
Monitor workers who are at risk of heat stress
Workers are at an increased risk of heat stress from personal protective equipment, when the outside temperature exceeds 70°F, or while working at high energy levels. Workers should be monitored with an established routine to periodically check them for signs and symptoms of heat exposure.
Steps Employees Should Take to Protect Themselves from Sun Exposure
Management can only put in place so much; workers must take action to protect themselves from excessive heat exposure.
These steps include:
- Wear sunscreen. It’s suggested to use an SPF of 30 or higher and one that is water-resistant.
- Wear sunglasses. Preferably with UV protection.
- Wear long sleeves, pants, and a wide hat or neck covering to protect from sun exposure.
- You may need to add extra salt to food if salt replacement is needed. Don’t use salt tablets!
- Know when to stop and take a break. Workers should listen to their bodies and let management know if they need a break. Always seek shaded or covered outdoor areas to take work breaks.
Stay Cool with Help from the HR Department
As risk management experts, we believe safety should always be top of mind, particularly when working outside in the scorching summer temperatures.
It’s more than just having water onsite to stay hydrated. Take the appropriate steps for construction sites or outdoor jobs for employees to stay safe during summer. Make sure everyone has a refresher on your safety training and use these general guidelines for protecting your team from heat stress.
Lean on the Vested HR Risk Management team for the resources you need to combat the hazards of working in the heat. Not a current Vested HR client? Schedule your free evaluation and we’ll be in touch shortly.