Keep it Cool: Beating the Heat on the Jobsite
Summer is Here! While most of us are looking forward to fun in the sun, when temperatures rise, it becomes important to take some extra heat safety precautions to ensure workers remain safe during the hotter months.
If you’ve ever felt a little lightheaded and scorched after an afternoon in the sun, you know how draining the heat can be. Heatstroke is the biggest individual danger and, if left untreated, can be fatal, as the National Safety Council (NSC) pointed out. Other temperature-related hazards include dehydration, heat cramps, and heat exhaustion.
Heat Safety is important for all workers during summer, and not just those in outdoor settings. Read on to learn how keeping a cool head – and everything else – can not only improve workplace morale but also keep people safe when the weather turns a bit too hot and humid.
Water, Water Everywhere
The easiest step toward preventing heat-related safety issues is also one of the most important: Drink water. Drinking cool, clean water helps you regulate your body’s internal temperature and prevents dehydration. OSHA recognizes the importance of providing water, which is why OSHA Standards require an employer to provide potable water in the workplace.
Here are simple solutions to make sure thirsty employees get the refreshment they need:
- Provide bottled water.
- Install a freestanding water cooler on-site.
- For mobile or outdoor worksites, put a plastic cooler in a central location.
Bottom line: Make sure a steady supply of cold water is available at all workplaces. But remember that the combination of sweating and high water consumption flushes sodium from the body, which is its own danger. Sports drinks can counteract this risk by replenishing salt and electrolytes.
Dress for Success
Outdoor workers should wear lightweight, loose-fitting and breathable clothing whenever possible, as well as a hat. Other critical dressing tips to beat the heat:
- Wear light colors. Light-colored clothing reflects the sun, while dark colors absorbs heat.
- Cotton, linen and rayon fabrics are lightweight and transmit air and moisture more freely than other fabrics.
- Don’t forget eyewear! A pair of UV protection and glare protection sunglasses can do wonders.
This advice doesn’t mean those working indoors should wear whatever they want just because there’s air conditioning. A long walk from the subway or bus stop to an office can turn into an ordeal on a hot day, so office-bound employees should also keep their clothing on the lighter side.
Sunscreen is a must for all outdoor workers. Advise staff to pick a variety of sunblock rated at least SPF 30 and marked as sweat- and water-resistant. Other sun-stopping tips include:
- Considering the sun burns brightest between 11 am and 3pm, minimize outdoor work during mid-day (coinciding with lunch, making it easier to schedule around).
- Tell workers to pace themselves and find regular opportunities for small breaks.
- Make sure there are shaded areas of the worksite where employees can dodge the sun’s rays while during a break or at lunch.
Signs to Watch For
Wondering if you or someone else might be suffering from a heat-related illness? OSHA recommends you keep an eye out for the common signs:
- Dizziness or confusion
- Weakness and fatigue
- Excessive sweating or red skin discoloration
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a co-worker, get to a shaded, cool area, drink water and seek medical attention.
Use OSHA Resources
The OSHA Heat Index provides specific instructions for working environments at particular temperatures. For example, anything below 91 degrees Fahrenheit requires only common-sense heat protection, whereas a 103- to 115-degree worksite should have on-site first aid services available in case of heatstroke. OSHA also offers an app that allows easy monitoring of the heat index and provides reminders of best practices for a given heat level.
Last but not least, check out FFVA Mutual’s resources for managing heat risks on the job. Our Solutionists are with you every step of the way to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses, as well as quickly manage claims if and when they happen.