It’s been a pretty hot summer so far, and we’re not even halfway through, so perhaps this is would be a good time to remind you to take special precautions on scorching hot summer days, in order to keep your workers safe and productive. The higher the temperature goes, the less comfortable workers feel, which makes them more prone to accidents and also causes them to slow down a bit. But just as importantly, excessive heat can be extremely dangerous, and building a culture of safety requires that you keep your workers as safe as possible.
If possible, try to reduce the demand on each worker by reducing the level of physical exertion such as excessive lifting, climbing, or digging. If possible, try to use relief workers or assign extra workers. Try to reschedule the most strenuous activities jobs for the cooler part of the day and reserve the hottest part of the day for routine maintenance and repair work.
For those workers who must work outside during the hot part of the day, they should wear light, very loose-fitting clothing, with long sleeves and long pants, in order to avoid serious UV damage from the sun. For areas of the body that are still exposed, such as faces, hands and necks, be sure to have adequate supplies of good quality sunscreen on hand as well.
Make sure all outside workers are provided with plenty of water. And that should be water, as sugary drinks and drinks with caffeine actually cause faster dehydration. They should also be given plenty of breaks during which they can drink the water. It is far more beneficial to drink small amounts of water at frequent intervals than to drink a lot of water all at once. If the work is particularly strenuous and is performed in direct sunlight, try to provide a shady area or tent, where workers can sit down, drink some water and recharge.
If your workers are toiling away in an area with a combination of high temperature and high humidity, be aware of the increased risk to such workers of heat stroke or heat exhaustion. In addition to workers who don’t take adequate breaks or drink enough water, pay close attention to workers who take certain medications, older workers or workers who are not in peak physical condition, as they are especially susceptible to complications from heat-related stress.
Some of the warning signs for heat-related illness include headaches, lightheadedness, confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness, abnormally high body temperature and hot, dry skin. When a worker starts to complain that he or she isn’t feeling well, you would do well to take the complain seriously and sit that worker down in the shade with a cup of water and let them recover.
Other potential risks to the health of workers toiling outdoors in summer aren’t necessarily heat-related. It might be a good idea to have workers regularly check for ticks, which sometimes carry Lyme Disease. Be sure to watch out for mosquitoes, which can carry West Nile Virus, and plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy, that can cause skin rashes and make it difficult to work.