Every year, hundreds of people lose their lives to the biggest weather-related killer in the United States, the heat. Summers in North America can get pretty steamy, especially when heat waves roll in. Usually, these waves consist of a combination of sweltering temperatures and high humidity, especially in the Kentuckiana area. This time of year is when you should revisit your procedures on preventing heat-related hazards in the workplace.
Although there are no specific standards in place by OSHA to protect workers from environmental conditions that lead to heat related injuries, employers still have a duty to defend their employees from workplace hazards. Thankfully, these fatalities and injuries can be prevented by being smart and following several easy precautions.
How To Prevent Heat-Related Hazards In The Workplace
Employers can in fact help to keep workers safe on those sizzling summer days. That’s why it is very important to prepare by developing a plan that includes a set of hot-weather precautions to utilize during risky times. Follow these steps to prevent heat-related hazards
Step 1 – Educate employees on the dangers of heat in the workplace.
Occupations (both indoors and outdoors) that involve high air temperatures along with strenuous physical activities, direct contact with hot objects, limited air circulation, use of bulky or non-breathable protective clothing as well as various outdoor operations all increase the risk of heat-related illness for exposed workers. Make sure you educated these employees on the dangers of heat.
OSHA’s website has some very useful materials you can print out and share with your team members. Click here to see their free downloads.
Step 2 – Create an environment that is less prone to heat hazards
Whenever possible, use air conditioning and ventilation systems to keep the environment cooler and safer for workers.
Step 3 – Make sure employees are properly acclimated to the weather
This can easily be done by incrementally increasing the workload over a period of time. Remember to keep in mind that workers who have not been around similar condition before may require longer acclimation times.
Step 4 – Allow Breaks
It is also important to allow frequent breaks for people working in hot and humid conditions. This not only allows them an opportunity to possibly escape the heat for a bit, but also to let their bodies recuperate. Also make sure not to overwork employees during extreme weather conditions. Allow for proper work/rest cycles to ensure well-being and maximum performance.
Step 5 – Provide Water
Speaking of recuperating, a very essential part of recuperating in the heat is drinking water. Make sure to encourage employees to drink plenty of liquid before, during and after their shifts. You may even want to provide water coolers to your employees who will be working in these hazardous conditions.
To read more about recognizing symptoms of heat-related illness and how to prevent heat-related illness, check out the OSHA website here.