Thousands of workers across the nation exposed to workplace heat get sick from it each year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) knows that heat illness can kill. It estimates 50-to-70 percent of cases happen during the first few days of working in warm or hot weather. Heavy activity, lack of time to adjust to the new conditions, or wearing clothes that hold in body heat can increase the risk.
But, heat illness is avoidable. Here are five steps you can take to protect your employees and still get the job done when temperatures heat up.
Step 1 – Provide plenty of water
For proper hydration, plan for one quart of water per hour for each employee. For a ten-person crew working an eight-hour shift, that’s 20 gallons of water. If you can’t provide the water all at once, make sure you can replenish it throughout the day. Plus, encourage your employees to drink it. The water must be fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided to employees free of charge. And, it must be as close as possible to where employees are working.
Step 2 – A shady respite
Workers should have the ability to find shade anytime outdoor temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Like water, shade must be as close as possible to where your employees are working. There must be enough shade to accommodate anyone that may be taking a break or rest period.
Buildings or trees can provide shade for your workers. Encourage them to take advantage of it. If not, use pop-up canopies.
Employees are entitled to a cool-down rest period when they feel the need to protect themselves from overheating. It should last at least five minutes. Watch over the worker until signs and symptoms have abated. Don't order them back to work before that happens.