Handling Summer Heat Conditions in the Workplace
Man, it’s hot outside! A high temperature has more implications for employers than grabbing the suntan oil and the umbrella drink.
Workers, especially those who work outdoors, are entitled to safe workplaces under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s laws and regulations. This means that they are entitled to protection from extreme heat.
According to the Center for Disease Controls, extreme heat exposure caused more than 7,900 deaths in the United States between 1999-2009. This risk is worthy of an employer’s attention. See https://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/ClimateChangeandExtremeHeatEvents.pdfo
So what’s constitutes extreme heat? There is no general agreed-up definition. It can be characterized as an extended period of time (at least a few days) with unusually hot weather conditions. Many experts combine the temperature with the level of humidity, to come up with a heat index that gauges the safety of the work environment.
So how does an employer handle extreme heat conditions?
1. Consider a policy.
Your policy should include some education, and set parameters and guidelines for working in extreme heat conditions. For a nice example of content, see https://www.uoguelph.ca/hr/news-item/hot-weather-alerts
2. Be proactive.
Watch the weather, and understand the terminology used to describe what us non-meteorologists would just call a heatwave. A day or two in advance of a predicted heatwave, send out reminders to managers and workers with links to appropriate policy and 'practical tip' documents.
3. Get trained.
The American Red Cross has a great checklist that can be referenced and used for general training purposes for employers, as well as non-employers. Learn the terminology, identify the risks, be proactive in minimizing risks and get educated on general first aid tips. http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4340158_HeatWave.pdf
4. Be practical.
When in doubt, err on the side of caution. While all companies have performance pressures, a medical emergency has the potential to create even greater stress and expense for your business.
A little planning should allow businesses and their workers to stay safe this summer. Be proactive now, and everyone can enjoy the pool and a cool drink later!