Cities around the west are bracing for a heat wave, with many expected to reach temperatures in the triple digits this weekend. Our locations in Portland, Salem, Eugene and Hermiston, Oregon, and Boise, Idaho, will likely see record highs just a few days after the first official day of summer.
Outside workers, and those working in hot indoor environments, are especially susceptible to heat illness, and heat safety should be top of mind for employers and employees while these high temperatures continue. OSHA highlights three key, easy-to-remember factors in preventing heat illness:
Staying hydrated is key to staying safe. Drinking lots of water (OSHA recommends every 15 minutes) helps the body replenish all of the fluids lost to sweat. Staying nourished with regular meals and snacks is also important, and those doing very hard labor may drink a sports drink in addition to water to replace fluids and electrolytes.
Taking breaks to sit down in the shade helps the body cool down. Consider changing your break policy, or instituting different work/rest schedules, during periods of extreme heat so employees have more frequent breaks, and/or of a longer duration.
Breaks and meals should be taken out of the sun whenever possible. An area that is covered, or preferably indoors with a fan or air conditioning, provides some much-needed reprieve and a chance for workers to cool down. Make sure to have water available in this area, as well.
Proper clothing and sun protection (such as hats and sunscreen) are also important factors. Employees and supervisors should be very familiar with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, and know who to call in case of an emergency (some companies contract with AMR or another company for mobile health care services).
Making sure your employees are knowledgeable about heat safety is key to helping them stay safe through this heat wave and the rest of the summer. OSHA offers dozens of printable flyers, posters and other tools (many available in Spanish and other languages) to help educate employees about this vitally important topic, including:
Protecting Workers from Heat Illness Flyer
Worksite Training Poster
Using the Heat Index: A Guide for Employers
Have more tips for heat safety at work? Leave them in the comments below!