This week marks the official start of summer, which means warmer temperatures and increased risk for heat-related illnesses. There are plenty of things that employees can do to make sure they are educated about common health risks caused by working in the heat, and to ensure they are taking precautions to stay safe, but what can employers do to make sure their team is safe? Read these four tips to learn what you can do.
- Control the temperature. Consider the environment where your employees are working. Some manufacturing facilities can get hot during the summer months. While it may not be feasible to air condition the whole facility, could you give staff access to an air-conditioned breakroom? Would it be possible to add fans or better ventilation? If the job is outside, the temperature is out of your control, but you might be able to set up a tent to provide shade during breaks, or provide hats, bandanas, or other breathable clothing to make sure your employees are equipped to handle the heat.
- Keep heat in mind when scheduling. Often, we get used to a certain work schedule and tend to stick to it throughout the year, but those jobs affected by the summer heat might benefit from a slightly altered schedule. During those hot days, employees may be willing to come in early to work in the cooler morning hours instead of working through the hottest part of the day. If you can’t change the schedule, you can still make sure your team is staying safe in the heat by giving them plenty of breaks to cool off and rehydrate. As you’re scheduling new employees, start them off with a smaller workload and more frequent opportunities to rest until they can work up to what the rest of the team is doing. It takes time to acclimate to working in the heat.
- Make accommodations. You’re not always going to be able to control the temperature or adjust schedules, so you may have to brainstorm other ways to ensure the safety of workers during hot weather. If possible, give employees the flexibility to distribute their workload however works best for them instead of requiring certain tasks at a certain time. Individuals know their limits, and could complete assignments how it works best for them so they don’t get overheated trying to do everything at once. Also consider rotating job functions among workers, so the most physical tasks don’t fall all on one person. More than anything, make sure your team has access to water and an opportunity to take breaks throughout the day.
- Provide training. Even when you’re careful to take plenty of precautions against the heat, you should have a plan and educate your team on what to do in case an employee is affected by a heat-related illness. Provide training so that workers and supervisors will recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, and make sure everyone knows what the plan of action is if someone gets sick.
For more information about preventing and treating heat exposure, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) site to see their campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses.