Employers know that their personnel face year-round hazards, but summer brings extra ones, such as heat stress, exposure to pesticides, and venomous insects and snakes, just to name a few. Workers in parks, recreation, highway departments, forestry, construction, paving, painting, and agriculture must deal with all the hazards that hot weather brings while performing their job duties.
Employers should train their workers well; they should be given the chance to acclimate to the heat gradually. An estimated 46% of reported heat illness cases occurred the first day on the job; 80% reported cases of heat illness within 4 days of beginning a job. Persons that are physically fit become acclimatized 50% faster than those who are not in good shape. However, during a heat wave, even previously acclimatized employees are at risk. The body must have time to adjust to sudden, abnormally high temperatures or other extreme conditions.
There are many ways companies can help make the workers better able to do their job comfortably. Furnishing shade in rest/break areas is very important. Portable canopies or umbrellas can be set up, and use misting machines, or spray them with water. Employers should be sure they wear hats, safety glasses (sunglasses), and proper protective clothing. During heat waves, it would be best to work early morning or evening shifts, and avoid overtime and double shifts.
Other important ways that employers can ensure the health and safety of their workers are:
- Educate them on ways to prevent heat stress.
- Be sure they know what to do if a co-worker seems to be experiencing heat-related illness.
- Provide plenty of water.
- Adjust work schedule to provide workers rest from the heat.
- Rearrange nonessential duties.
- Supervisors should monitor workers and be sure they are staying hydrated.
Employers are required by OSHA to provide that workplaces are free from recognizable hazards, both indoors and outdoors. It is up to the companies to know in advance what their employees will confront and guarantee that their environment is a safe one.