05 Jun Help Your People Beat the Heat at Work!
It’s officially summer! But you’ve still got work to do. If it feels like every year, it gets hotter, it’s not just you. Your workers feel the heat too. As the temperatures continue to rise, it is important to take care of your people. In the last decade, 384 workers have died from heat exposure, according to an investigation by Columbia Journalism Investigations and NPR. Hundreds more were sicken, sunburned, or hospitalized from the heat. Heat-related illnesses are preventable with proper safety and care. Here’s what you can to keep your employees safe and healthy from the heat.
Educate your employees.
As part of employee training, and as reminders throughout the year, educate employees about the dangers of heat-related illnesses including heat stroke and heat exhaustion. They need to know what to do if they or their co-workers experience symptoms, and to take immediate action. Your emergency plan and first-aid procedures should include heat-related emergencies, should they occur. Hands-on first aid training and other resources are important. OSHA, USF Safety Florida, and the Red Cross are good resources.
Take frequent breaks.
Prevention is the key here. Ensure there is a shaded, ventilated area for employees to take breaks in. If you work in an area with little shade, consider bringing a pop-up canopy to the jobsite. If you work in a hot but shaded environment without A/C, open the doors and windows, and make sure fans are placed throughout the work and break areas.
Dress for the job!
In addition to safety gear, employees need to dress for the weather. In summer, that means clothing that helps to prevent overheating and sun exposure, ideally that’s lightweight and loose-fitting. Hats and sunglasses offer shade. Provide your employees with information on appropriate work dress, and encourage them to follow it.
Encourage employees who work in the sun to use sunscreen, and to regularly re-apply throughout the day, especially if the sunscreen is sweated off or manually wiped away.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
It is your responsibility as an employer to provide a sufficient supply of water. Encourage your employees to drink water often, not just on their breaks. You can also encourage employees to bring snacks or sports drinks with them, in order to replace salts and minerals lost through sweat. Water should be the primary fluid replacement, but sports drinks are beneficial too.
Listen to your employees.
If someone complains about the heat, or tells you they feel sick – let them take a break. Their body is telling them something is wrong. Don’t keep pushing, or tell them to “man up.” It could kill them. New and returning workers are especially at risk for heat-sickness, so allow them to gradually build up to the level of work your more seasoned employees might be accustomed to.
Remember, heat-related illnesses are preventable. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business. Put your employees first and stay cool this summer!