Preventing Heat Illness in the Summer
- Provide workers with water. OSHA has suggested that workers drink water every 15 minutes, even if they are not thirsty. It may be too late to hydrate once the body has used up all its water.
- Provide rest and shade. Bodies need time to cool down throughout the day. Sitting down under a tree or, even better, getting time in an air-conditioned space can make all the difference.
- Allow workers to acclimatize to the heat. Statistics have shown that new workers and those workers who have taken more than a week off are the most susceptible to heat illness. This is because the body needs time to build tolerance to the heat. To help with this, these workers should have a work schedule that allows them time to acclimatize.
- Modify work schedules, if needed. Even the strongest workers can still be taken aback when a heat wave hits. In these cases, maybe a shorter workday or more frequent breaks are needed. In some cases, workers can maybe spend part of the day working indoors.
- Plan for emergencies and train employees on symptoms and prevention. Workers should be able to notice when they or coworkers are having difficulties. Knowing common symptoms, such as flushed faces or light-headedness, can possibly catch a problem before it becomes serious.
- Monitor workers for illnesses. Employers also need to take a proactive role and watch their workers’ actions. Even if an employee is in the midst of something like heat exhaustion, recognizing this hazard early is much better than letting it escalate to heat stroke.
- Possibly provide personal protective equipment (PPE). Employers are not required to supply “ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen.” [29 CFR 1910.132(h)] However, providing these or other types of PPE can help employees during warm weather.
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