Summertime Threats to Employee Health and Safety

The recent early summer heat wave is a reminder to take care of your employees who work outside for extended periods of time, or in interior spaces that are not cooled. Unprotected employees may suffer heat stroke, exhaustion or worse – resulting in occupational injuries, possible OSHA violations and worker’s compensation claims.

The list of most likely impacted workers is long*:

  • Agricultural workers
  • Construction
  • Landscapers
  • Maintenance, painters
  • Food cart/ truck vendors
  • Car lot salespeople and car washers
  • Delivery drivers
  • Oil and gas field crews
  • Public safety: firefighters, police, security guards, life guards
  • Amusement Park workers
  • Tour guides, swimming pool staff
  • Outdoor event security, marketing, outreach, caterers, parking attendants, etc.
  • Warehouses, barns and other structures that are not cooled

Certain health conditions make employees more susceptible to heat illnesses, including:

  • High blood pressure or heart disease
  • Taking certain medications
  • Being overweight
  • Age 65+

California’s Heat Illness Prevention program offers lots of good tips for employers everywhere to plan for employee safety, including guidance on these topics:

  • Communications
  • Shade/ Cooling
  • Fresh Drinking Water
  • Emergency Response Procedures
  • Weather Monitoring
  • Rest Periods
  • Clothing and PPE
  • Training

For employee productivity, morale and safety, consider drafting your own high heat protocols. Your employees and work comp rates will appreciate your efforts!

Need help drafting summer heat protocols? Check out these free resources:

OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/standards.html

California’s E-Tool: http://www.dir.ca.gov/DOSH/etools/08-006/

CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/default.html

Arizona Heat Safety Resource Guide: http://www.azdhs.gov/documents/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/extreme-weather/heat/az-heat-safety-resource-guide.pdf

Utah Prevent Heat Ilness: https://laborcommission.utah.gov/divisions/UOSH/heatillness.html

 

*From the CDC – NIOSH:

Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Workers at risk of heat stress include outdoor workers and workers in hot environments such as firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, factory workers, and others. Workers at greater risk of heat stress include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat. Prevention of heat stress in workers is important. Employers should provide training to workers so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented