Each year, thousands of workers experience injury and illness caused by high temperatures and sun exposure. While some cases are minor, heat rashes and strokes can represent a major health risk for outdoor workers.
Agents should advise their clients to seriously consider the risks posed by dehydration, skin damage, and overheating, especially for those working outdoors. Here are five tips to share with your clients:
1. Encourage your team to stay hydrated. The average person loses 10 cups of water each day due to dehydration. Encourage your employees to choose water over soda and other sugary drinks. The higher the temperature, the more water workers need to drink. Provide a source of water at the job site whenever possible. In extended work periods, 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes is ideal.
Ensure enough water is supplied and stored safely so no shortages occur.
2. Consider the heat index, not just the temperature. Depending on compounding conditions like humidity, temperature alone will not fully capture the severity of conditions.
The heat index takes these compounding conditions into account, providing an accurate view of conditions on a given day.
3. Create work conditions which reduce heat stress. Heat stress is a buildup of body heat generated either internally by muscle use or externally by the environment. Protect your team by minimizing work time in hazardous conditions. Use the heat index as a guide and consider the effects of strenuous work as well.
Allow for more frequent and longer breaks in hot conditions. Schedule projects so that your team doesn’t feel rushed or tempted to overexert themselves.
4. Ensure your team is using the right equipment and supplies. Clothing should be lightweight and loose-fitting. UV absorbent shades and a wide-brimmed hat are also recommended. Sunscreen and other heat-protecting supplies are also important.
For a more detailed set of guidelines, take a look at this guide created by OSHA.
5. Educate and train your workforce on best practices. Educate your team on the risks of heat-related illness, and train them to recognize the symptoms of such conditions like heat stroke and heat exhaustion.
Dialogue with your team to find effective solutions to the unique conditions of each worksite. This list of success stories from other companies may provide some inspiration.
First-time workers are especially at risk. A report from OSHA studied cases of heat-related illness and found that 80% of the cases involved a worker with less than one week of experience on the job.
Take time to ensure your team gets comfortable with the new conditions. The CDC recommends starting slow, with shorter shift schedules of no more than 20% of the usual duration of work in the heat on day 1 and no more than 20% increase on each additional day. Gradually increasing this amount over a period of approximately 1-2 weeks will allow your team to get acclimated to the conditions.
These tips are a good start, but it is important to assess the unique challenges and risks a particular site or project might pose. Agents should encourage their clients to actively identify and mitigate risks in the workplace. Stay hydrated. Stay safe.