Yesterday, I drove by a young man directing construction traffic from the side of a freshly-tarred road. We are in the middle of a heat wave in my area and even by 9 AM, we were well into the 90’s. If it had been a cartoon, I would’ve been able to see the heat waves rising beneath him. I wanted to drop some gatorade off for the guy! Don’t be mistaken: Heat stroke is not just dangerous to the most vulnerable among us. It can land even a young man like this worker in the hospital with very little warning.
We aren’t the only ones experiencing record-breaking highs this summer: Many regions are facing increasingly wild weather. So what does this mean for individuals or companies whose work requires them to be outdoors? I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean: waiting until someone has a heat stroke to think about worker safety.
As we head into another record-breaking summer, it’s a good time to talk about workplace safety. Protecting workers—especially those who spend extended time outdoors—requires a little extra forethought and attention. While your workers’ health is a good enough reason to take extra measures, addressing safety risks can also prevent fines and lawsuits.
Worker Safety in Extreme Heat
Staying compliant with OSHA’s guidelines on Occupational Heat Exposure prevents workers from getting heat related illnesses. It also prevents them from missing work and you from getting fined. Keep everyone safe so neither you nor your employees end up paying the price.
- Provide water, rest, and shade: It’s easy to get into a project and forget about the time. Sometimes proactive measures like mandatory breaks with plenty of hydration will remind people to take care of themselves in the heat. Make plenty of water and gatorade easily accessible.
- Recognize the signs: Managers should be on high alert for symptoms of heat exhaustion. According to the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), “Persons suffering from heat exhaustion might have cool, moist skin; sweat heavily; or complain of headache, nausea or lightheadedness.”
- Watch the weather: At different temperatures and conditions, different measures are appropriate. Monitor the heat index as well as the associated risks. Schedule reminders and water breaks ahead of time and stick to them, regardless of your schedule.
General Emergency Preparedness
Heat isn’t the only hazard workers may face. OSHA’s website provides resources for winter weather and just about every situation here. Preventative measures for all inclement weather issues is a worthwhile investment. OSHA offers free on-site consultations to help diligent employers eliminate any problems up front. Contact them at 1-800-321-OSHA for more information.
Watching out for your workers’ safety is not just about staying compliant with the letter of the law, but about understanding and staying true to the spirit behind it. Even if you can push workers a little further to get the job done faster, it’s worth going above and beyond to provide a safe environment. Watching out for people makes workers more loyal and you’ll ultimately be more productive, too.