Summer may be winding down, but temperatures are continuing to rise. Sweltering heat typically is not a major issue for employees sitting in an air conditioned office all day. However, if your line of work calls for your team to be outside, it is your duty as an employer to take precautions to keep them safe.
OSHA warns that spending even a short amount of time outside in extremely hot weather can be very dangerous. Under normal circumstances, the body sweats to stay cool. However, this isn’t enough when temperatures and humidity reach extreme levels. Body temperature can quickly cross into the danger zone, resulting in a wide-variety of heat illnesses ranging from heat rash and heat cramps to more serious conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
How to Prevent Heat Illness
OSHA encourages you to create a heat prevention program to help your team members avoid succumbing to a heat illness. As mentioned in the OSHA FactSheet on protecting workers from the effects of heat, advise your employees to take the following actions:
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if they do not feel thirsty.
- Cool down by resting in the shade.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Be fully aware of the signs of a heat illness and provide training on what to do in an emergency.
- Keep a watchful eye on team members.
- Gradually ease into working in the heat.
New employees who have not worked in the heat before and those returning to the job after more than a week away, are especially vulnerable to heat illness. Be understanding and flexible with these workers. For example, provide an adjusted schedule to allow them to steadily build up their tolerance to the heat, rather than jumping in full force.
Simply monitoring temperatures is not enough to combat heat illness. As stated by OSHA’s in Using the Heat Index: A Guide for Employers working in direct sunlight can raise heat index values by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit! Preparation is the key to success when working in extreme conditions.
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