Five Tips for Preventing Heat Stress on the Jobsite
Everyone looks forward to summer, and it’s no wonder why: the season is associated with fun. However, summer temperatures can cause heat illnesses (such as sunburn, exhaustion and sunstroke) that are anything but fun. In fact, they pose a real threat to safety and productivity for those working outdoors. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your team stays cooled down and productivity stays up.
1. Adjust Job Schedules to Avoid Working Too Long in High Heat
Midday, typically from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is the hottest and therefore most hazardous time of day for working outside. Consider adjusting your schedule to make it easier for your team to safely get the job done:
- Schedule the heaviest workload for cooler parts of the day, like early mornings and evenings
- Plan to have your team work in two shifts — one in the morning and one in the evening — with a break in between
- Use an app like the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool to help plan your schedule around the heat throughout the day
If heavy work must be done throughout the day, have your team rotate through jobs, so the same team members aren’t doing the most intensive jobs all day. Make sure to follow appropriate cleaning practices and other OSHA-recommended COVID-19 construction guidance if rotating between teams and stations to reduce the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.
Also, be sure to track how many hours your team members are putting in. Even if they want to work overtime, it’s not safe to spend more than a few hours in the heat.
2. Create a Shady Hydration Station to Provide Relief From the Heat
Allow team members to take extra breaks whenever they’re feeling too hot and encourage them to stay hydrated:
- If the jobsite has no shade, set up a canopy tent to create a rest area out of the sun with enough space that multiple workers can take a break at a safe distance
- Set up hydration stations at the jobsite, complete with coolers full of water or sports drinks
- The next time you order supplies from the ABC Supply catalog, consider adding water coolers or damp cooling towels to your list that team members can wear around their necks
3. Dress for the Heat
Encourage your employees to wear light-colored, loose clothing and UV-protected eyewear. You might even want to look into ordering apparel specifically for the warmer months. Consider checking out the professional image building resources section of ABC Supply's Freedom Programs to see if there is apparel available that’s safer for the climate.
Keep a close eye on those who do wear thick clothing or protective gear, and allow them to rotate jobs or take extra breaks. As the weather starts to heat up, have a conversation with your employees about how they can eliminate their risk with their apparel on the job.
4. Train Your Team to Recognize Heat Stress Symptoms
Properly training your team members on the hazards of heat exhaustion and how to recognize heat stress symptoms is crucial to having a safe summer. You can even encourage them to download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app, which also provides updates on your local heat index and information on heat illness symptoms and treatment. Some common heat-related symptoms to watch out for include:
- Heat rash, which causes red bumps on the skin where sweat does not evaporate
- Muscle spasms and pain in the abdomen, arms or legs, which is a sign of heat cramps
- Nausea, weakness, dizziness and lightheadedness, which, if not treated, can lead to heat stroke
5. Prep for the Season & Buddy Up
Once you’ve determined all of the steps your business is taking on the jobsite and ways for your employees to add their own levels of protection, consider holding a training session for your team. You can hold this as many times as you feel is necessary, but especially at the beginning of the summer heat. Here are some things you should cover in the session:
- The new job schedule, if you’re adjusting for the heat
- The hydration station and what’s available during extra breaks
- How to recognize heat illness and heat stress symptoms
- What to do if your coworker is exhibiting these symptoms
Once your team is trained on the symptoms of heat illness and how processes are adjusted for the heat, they should use a buddy system to keep tabs on fellow workers and alert their supervisor should anyone show signs of overheating.
OSHA states that the three most important aspects of heat safety are water, shade and rest. Keep your team healthy (and productive) this summer by ensuring ample access to all three.