With spring finally here and the cold, dark days of winter coming to an end, many workers will find themselves spending longer hours in the sun. Construction and landscaping workers, transportation and delivery drivers, government park employees, and others all spend long hours of work outside.
Though the warmer and sunnier days of spring might certainly be welcomed by workers who have grown tired of wearing several layers of clothes while laboring outside during the winter months, exposure to the heat and the sun does come with several different potential risks.
For companies who employ workers who spend long hours outside, developing policies and protocols that help those employees stay cool in the heat is an essential part of limiting workplace injuries. Below, we offer a few tips for staying cool in the heat. We also look at some of the OSHA guidelines and recommendations for how to keep cool working outside.
The Dangers of Working in the Heat
According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), between the years 2004 and 2018, an average of 702 heat-related deaths occurred each year in the United States. While some of these unfortunate fatalities occurred at homes that were left without power during extensive heat waves, outdoor workers have also suffered heat-related deaths and health problems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “between 1992 and 2016, 783 workers in the US died and more than 69,000 workers suffered serious injuries due to heat exposure on the job.” The actual numbers of heat-related health problems might even be significantly higher due to under-reporting.
Perhaps even more worrisome is the fact that rising global temperatures and the increasing frequency of severe heat waves are putting outdoor workers at an even greater risk. One recent study concluded that “it is evident that the frequency and intensity of extreme hot weather conditions due to climate change, extreme workplace heat exposure and the abatement of workplace ill health and injury will continue to present challenges in the developing countries located in the tropics, and the globe at large, especially in fast-paced work environments.”
The CDC clearly states that workers who are at risk for heat stress are prone to suffer from a myriad of health problems, including heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. Working in high heat also increases the risk of workplace injuries and accidents. Extended exposure to heat can lead to a lack of concentration, dizziness, sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, among other hazards that endanger the health and wellbeing of workers.
OSHA Guidelines for Keeping Your Employees Cool When Working Outside
For companies who have a large workforce that is exposed to extreme outdoor temperatures during the summer months, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers a set of guidelines that can help to guarantee the health of your outdoor workers. Some of the main elements of these guidelines include:
- Encouraging workers to consume adequate liquids and providing those resources
- Shorter work shifts during high temperatures
- More frequent breaks in air-conditioned spaces in order to allow for increased air flow, leading to increased evaporative cooling on the body
- Quick and agile identification of the first signs of heat stress and other heat-related illnesses
- Identifying workers who might have personal conditions that increase their susceptibility to heat-related disorders and providing reasonable accommodations
You can find the complete OSHA guidelines for working in outdoor and indoor heat environments here.
Keep Your Team Cool With Work-Fit
Another way to help safeguard the health and wellbeing of your outdoor employees during the summer months is to hire an injury prevention specialist. Work-Fit is a leading company that offers onsite, virtual and consulting services in injury prevention, giving you healthy employees and a healthy bottom line. As the nationwide expert in applying sports medicine techniques to the workplace, Work-Fit can design a heat illness prevention program and help you implement protocols to protect and safeguard your employees’ health and wellbeing.
Our injury prevention program and wellness management program can help employers develop a holistic preventive care model focused around staying safe during those 100 degree summer days.
If you are interested in protecting your outdoor workers from heat-related illnesses, contact Work-Fit today to learn about how we can help your team.