While there isn’t accurate and reliable data on heat-related deaths among outdoor workers, over the past 10 years, at least 384 workers have died from heat-related causes. Unfortunately, more incidents are bound to happen as above-normal temperatures are predicted for most of the U.S. this summer.
Sure, we all know about dehydration, heat strokes, and the like. But extreme heat also affects employees’ physiology and cognition, increasing the risk of injuries and accidents on the job (think: falling off a ladder, getting their hand caught in a machine, or being hit by a moving vehicle).
As a matter of fact, on days with high temperatures above 90 Fahrenheit, the risk of injury increases up to 9%, compared to days with temperatures hovering around the 50s or 60s. That percentage skyrockets to 15% when the heat breaks 100 degrees.
Keep reading for tips to combat the heat, so you can keep your crew safe and company OSHA-compliant during extreme temperatures.
Keep workers informed
In addition to cognition changes that can increase the number of accidents, working outdoors in hot weather can lead to symptoms such as dehydration, heat strokes, nausea, weakness, seizures, headaches, and cramps.
It’s your responsibility to keep workers informed and aware of these possible risks and symptoms.
You can even go the extra mile and instill a buddy system, where workers watch out for each and report signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion to supervisors before something worse happens.
Encourage ways to stay cool
When temperatures soar, encourage workers to find ways to stay cool. Depending on the type of work and the work site, this could mean finding shade, taking breaks in an air-conditioned building, or periodically spritzing themselves with water. Cooling vests or towels can help as well.
A cooling towel, like the Heat Relief towel, uses hyper-evaporative material and water to provide a reprieve from hot weather. Once soaked in water and wrung out, the towel can be worn as a scarf or bandana. The dampness from the towel pulls heat away from the body, which is evaporated into the air, creating a cooling effect. Heat Relief towels are also lightweight and compact, so they aren’t cumbersome to wear and can be easily packed and taken on-the-go.
Modify work schedules
The hottest time of the day is around 3 p.m. If possible, try adjusting work schedules to avoid some of the heat.
This might mean starting work earlier, ending earlier, extending into weekend hours, or relocating them to work sites where access to shade, air conditioning, water, and other necessities are closer when temperatures reach extremes.
Prompt workers to drink plenty of water
The CDC recommends drinking 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes when working in the heat. This translates to about one quart of water per hour.
Many outdoor workers may avoid drinking the recommended amounts of water, especially if there isn’t a restroom or portable toilet nearby. We created the Brief Relief Lavatory System just for this purpose. It comes with a privacy shelter, commode, full-sized seat, and supply of Disposa-John waste bags. It’s quick, clean, and easy bathroom access for any worksite.
We like to think of the Brief Relief Lavatory System as the “anti-Porta Potty”—no smells, no spills, no mess. (After all, does anyone really want to step into a Porta Potty on a hot, hot summer day? Nope.)
The best form of protection? Always be prepared.
While you can’t control the weather, you can control how you react to it. And proactivity is the name of the game when it comes to keeping workers cool, both in providing them with necessary options and a safe environment.
Through keeping workers informed of their risks and symptoms, encouraging them to stay cool, promoting hydration, and modifying work schedules, you can effectively battle the current heat wave—and the ones projected to follow.
To see the complete line of Brief Relief products for outdoor workers—including the Brief Relief Lavatory System and Heat Relief towels—visit our online shop.