June is National Safety Month. As temperatures soar, this is a great time to make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your employees safe and healthy. It is also the perfect time to remind employees of safety procedures, guidelines, risk management protocol, safety education, and injury reporting.
Here are some tips to help them beat the heat this summer.
Keep the worksite as cool as possible to help avoid summer-time heat stress. If your employees are primarily indoors, have your HVAC system cleaned and serviced. For those who work outside, set up portable fans and created shaded break areas. If possible, find an air-conditioned space for them to spend some of their break time, or at least encourage them to go offsite for lunch.
Water and Snacks
Frequent hydration is absolutely crucial to avoiding heat-related illnesses. In fact, your workers should be downing an eight-ounce cup of water about every 15 minutes. Encourage them to hydrate by making it convenient. Install large water coolers or keep water bottles in a refrigerator or a cooler full of ice. Employees who are sweating a lot can also lose electrolytes, so provide a collection of salty snacks like pretzels or trail mix.
Try to shift work schedules to avoid sending your employees outside during the worst heat of the afternoon. If they must work outside in the afternoon hours, try to schedule more frequent rest breaks.
People can adapt to the heat to some extent, depending on their genetics and overall state of health. But it takes time. Don’t expect new team members to keep up with your seasoned veterans right away. Give them the opportunity to adjust to the heat, as well as their new job tasks, before putting them on a full schedule.
Training and Empowerment
No matter how many precautions you take, heat-related illness could still occur. Make sure your employees understand the three levels of illnesses and what to do when they occur:
Heat cramps are the mildest, consisting of muscle aches and a general feeling of unwellness, but could progress if the person doesn’t treat them immediately. Anyone feeling heat cramps should immediately sit down in a cooler area and drink some water or a sports drink.
Heat exhaustion is marked by headache, nausea, confusion, dizziness, and heavy sweating. People with heat exhaustion are at imminent risk for heatstroke, and may not be thinking clearly enough to self-treat. Train your workers to monitor each other for symptoms of heat exhaustion. If they occur, move the person to a cool spot and encourage them to drink small, frequent sips of water and nibble on a salty snack. Wet some towels or even a shirt to sponge down the person’s head and neck.
Heatstroke can be fatal without proper treatment. Symptoms include a lack of sweating, high temperature, loss of consciousness, or even seizures. Tell your employees to call 911 if they notice someone experiencing heatstroke.
Heat-related illnesses can be severe, but you can help your employees beat the heat through smart planning and proper employee training.