With the end of winter fast approaching, now is as good a time as any to start preparing yourself for the challenges your company may face during the summer months. Many organizations view the summer as a potential down period, while others see it as their busiest season. To compensate for the potential lack of motivation you may fear your staff could face during the summer months, or to ensure that you do as much work as the warm weather will allow, you may be tempted to focus your energy solely on keeping employees engaged or working them to the point of collapse. However, at the same, you also need to be prepared to focus a portion of your attention on another summertime challenge: protecting your employees from the heat.
While it may seem to some to be rather innocuous, heat can actually pose a serious threat to you and your staff, regardless of the conditions you work in. Overexposure can lead to heat exhaustion or the more serious condition of heat stroke. Thus, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has put in place certain requirements and regulations to help prevent you and your employees from excessive heat exposure. These standards should be viewed as aides to your company’s performance, not restrictions. After all, it’s hard to remain at peak levels of productivity if your workers are hindered by heat stress.
Reviewing Summertime Safety Requirements
The standards regarding heat stress prevention set forth by OSHA apply to all employers. Granted, those whose staff works indoors may face a decreased risk of heat exposure due to internal climate controls, yet the standard of setting employee safety first during the summer still applies. To comply with it, it is recommended that you:
- Establish a heat illness prevention program: This can include anything from going over how employees can protect themselves from heat exposure at the beginning of summer, to recommending daily checks of employee health and hydration.
- Keep your employees hydrated: While staying hydrated requires a certain level of self-dedication on the part of your staff, you can assist them in doing this. If you work indoors, encourage your staff to take routine breaks to get a drink. If you work outdoors, make sure water is available to your workers at some location in the work area. Encourage everyone to drink a minimum of one pint of water per hour.
- Mandate breaks: The popular opinion of what makes a hard worker is not needing to take a break. Yet it’s difficult to keep working hard if one has collapsed from heat exhaustion. You need to make routine breaks mandatory. If you work outside, you also need to ensure workers have a shaded area where they can escape the heat.
- Help employees become acclimated to the heat: Outdoor work may be a new venture for some. If so, then such employees are likely not prepared to face the challenges presented by extreme heat from day one. Consider gradually introducing these employees to this environment. Offer them added breaks throughout the day until they feel more comfortable with their new work conditions.
- Maintain protective equipment: If you work indoors, ensure that air conditioning units are always functioning properly. If not, encourage employees to bring personal cooling fans from home. When working outdoors, you’ll want to provide your workers with whatever protective clothing they need, including hats, reflective face shields, or specialty vests that are thermally conditioned.
Right now, the potential dangers that heat stress can pose to your employees may be the last thing on your mind. However, to remain compliant with federal occupational health safety standards, and to guarantee the continued good morale of your workforce, the need to carve out a little time to address this issue cannot be overlooked. Fortunately, through the collaborative efforts of both you and your employees, staying safely cool during the summer should be a breeze (pardon the pun). Doing so ensures that your staff will have all the energy to tackle whatever you have to throw at them.
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