After a harsh winter in many parts of the country, Americans are looking forward to rising temperatures this summer. But hot weather can be hazardous for employees, whether they’re working outside in jobs like farming or construction or in a hot indoor environment, such as a food processing warehouse or manufacturing facility.
Heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke pose serious health risks, but some fairly simple preventive measures can be taken. Here are five best practices for workplace heat, inspired by OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
It’s easy to underestimate just how much water you need to drink while doing physical work in hot weather. Have water (preferably cold) easily accessible to employees, and encourage them to drink up throughout their shifts, not just at break time.
- Provide a cool area for breaks.
Break time is a great time to hydrate and cool off – but not if the break area is hot or in the direct sun. Ensure that employees take breaks, and that they have a shaded or (preferably) air-conditioned area to do so.
- Encourage appropriate sun protection.
Ensure that your dress code allows for appropriate warm weather clothing modifications, such as allowing employees to wear hats or vests with pockets to hold ice packs.
- Hold a safety meeting and post information.
Before the heat sets in, hold a safety meeting to ensure that employees are familiar with the above (and other!) preventative measures, and to discuss the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and steps to take if anyone experiences them. Post reminders and educational pieces around your workplace, such as the many resources provided by OSHA, to keep heat safety top of mind.
- Don’t forget about temporary employees.
Temporary employees aren’t as familiar with your workplace, and may not have been present for your safety meeting, so make an extra effort to ensure that they are aware of best practices when working in the heat. If you work with a staffing company, consider enlisting their help in training temporary employees who will be working in high temperatures.
June is National Safety Month, so now is the perfect time to put a focus on heat illness prevention so your employees can enjoy a safe, healthy summer.