While it’s best not to work outside in high temperatures, the nature of certain jobs—like construction, forestry, manufacturing or landscaping—sometimes makes it unavoidable. When this happens, a worker’s body temperature can rise to dangerously high levels and put them at risk of serious health complications.
Normally, the human body cools itself through sweating. However, in hot and humid weather, sweating is often not enough and heat illnesses can occur.
As an employer, you have a duty to take every reasonable precaution to protect your workers. Under the General Duty Clause, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Act of 1970, employers are required to provide a workplace free from potential hazards that can cause or are likely to cause death or serious harm to employees, including heat-related hazards.
In order to protect the well-being of their workforce, employers often need to implement policies and procedures to protect workers in hot environments. Accordingly, any employer that mandates outdoor work or work in hot environments should be educated on heat illnesses in order to thoroughly protect its workers. In addition, training employees on heat illness and general safety practices can make all the difference when it comes to protecting them from the heat.
It should be noted, some states have specific standards when it comes to heat illnesses so be sure to check local regulations.
Understanding heat illnesses and their contributing risk factors is a good first step for employers. However, to keep their workers safe, organizations must know how to limit and treat heat illnesses. In addition, implementing workplace controls can make all the difference when it comes to protecting at-risk employees from potentially deadly heat.
RECOGNIZING AND TREATING HEAT ILLNESSES
As an employer, you need to know how to recognize and treat heat illnesses if you are to protect your workers. Understanding how to respond to the symptoms of heat illnesses can mean the difference between life and death. There are a variety of ways employers can control heat illnesses in their workplace. Below are some common, yet effective methods, to help keep workers safe.
Heat Illness Assessments
In situations where a worker is exposed or could be exposed to high temperatures, a heat illness assessment should be conducted. This assessment should provide employers with a general sense of the risks facing their employees. Heat illness assessments should evaluate a wide range of risk factors including workplace temperature, humidity, heat radiation, air movement, employee workload, clothing and acclimatization.
Heat Illness Control Plans
To protect workers, organizations must take proactive approaches to workplace safety. Once an employer has identified the heat-related risk factors present in the workplace, a heat illness control plan should be developed to reduce exposures. Heat illness control plans typically utilize a mix of engineering and administrative controls to protect workers.
Organizations should use the information in their heat illness control plans to train supervisors and workers. Employees and their supervisors should know how to spot signs of heat illness in themselves and their co-workers. This type of education is critical when it comes to providing timely treatment to those who need it.
JGS Insurance is your workplace safety and risk management partner. We care about the well-being of your employees and your business. Contact us today for more tools and resources to ensure the health and safety of your workforce.