Summer has officially arrived and temperatures are creeping up. While the warmer weather brings sun and fun, it can also present serious safety issues for your workers—particularly those whose main tasks are performed outside. Fortunately, there are several simple practices you can implement to keep your employees safe, cool, and productive.
Educate Workers about Heat Exposure
Like permanent employees, temporary workers should receive proper heat exposure training. This is especially important for those who have not previously worked in high temperatures on a regular basis. Explain the symptoms of heat exposure (see below), set expectations for breaks, and encourage increased water consumption.
Paramount to workers’ summer safety is drinking water on a regular basis. While it may seem simple, a staggering number of employees forget, or feel they are too busy to drink water throughout the day. Not only should employers make ample clean water available, they should also continually remind workers to drink it. Give verbal reminders and place signage in key locations to instill in workers the importance of staying hydrated.
While a break in an air conditioned room may not always be possible, simply stopping vigorous work for 10-15 minutes can help an employee cool off and recharge. This is particularly important in the middle of the day, when temperatures are at their peak. The employee should drink water, find shade, and sit down to rest for a specified amount of time.
Know the Signs of Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke
Excessive heat exposure can cause heat exhaustion and heatstroke. While heat exhaustion may be alleviated, severe heatstroke can result in seizures, stroke, and even death. These risks are increased with workers who have not regularly worked in extreme heat.
Symptoms can include:
- Skin irritation
- Muscle cramps
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
*Symptom of heatstroke—call 911
If you notice an employee exhibiting one or more of these symptoms, act quickly. If the worker faints, has seizures, or is confused, promptly call 911. For other symptoms, have the individual sit or lie down in a shaded, cool area, provide cold water, and an ice pack, if available. If the symptoms worsen or do not improve, bring the individual to a clinic or the emergency room. Have a heat exhaustion/heatstroke protocol in place, should extreme heat conditions cause an employee to fall ill.
For more in-depth occupational heat exposure information, instructional videos, and printable signage, please visit OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure page.
Resources are readily available to you to help ensure your workers stay safe—even on the hottest of days.