Summer is in full swing, and many parts of the country are experiencing heat waves. While summertime makes many of us think of family barbecues, vacations and fun at the pool, the heat also poses a significant health risk to manufacturing employees who often don’t have the luxury of air conditioning. Heat-related illnesses, and in some cases even death, can occur when safety measures aren’t taken. The good news is those things are preventable. These tips will help you keep your manufacturing employees safe this summer.
- Allow employees to acclimate to the heat. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration), 50 to 70 percent of outdoor fatalities occur in the first few days of working in the heat. This happens because the body needs to get used to the heat gradually, allowing it to build a tolerance over time. OSHA recommends exposing employees to hot work environments gradually, in increasing increments, rather than all at once. Though this safety measure is easily overlooked, its importance cannot be overstated. Research shows that when it comes to heat exposure, “acclimatization appears to be the most common deficiency and the factor most clearly associated with death.”
- Keep employees hydrated. As we have pointed out previously, dehydration is a significant risk factor when working in the heat. Laborers working in the heat will require more water than usual. OSHA recommends that employers supply their workforce with enough fresh water for each employee to drink 1 quart of water per hour and encourage them to take water breaks.
- Let employees take breaks. Regular breaks of at least five minutes, ideally in a shady area, will help prevent heat exhaustion. Employees should not wait until they feel sick to take a break. Anyone showing signs of heat illness such as confusion, cramping, an inconsistent pulse or clammy skin should immediately be removed from the heat and taken to a cool environment.
- Create airflow. Facilities should have large fans that help ventilate the space and keep air circulating. This will help cool down the workspace and alleviate some of the discomfort from humidity. If possible, open windows and doors to create a cross-breeze.
- Don’t wait for the ask. Some employees will be hesitant to ask for breaks or extra water. Employers should take the lead on making sure that their workers have taken enough breaks, that they are acclimated to the heat properly and that they are hydrated. If a worker waits until they feel ill before asking for help, they are at an increased risk of heat stroke, which can be fatal.
The reality of manual labor jobs is that the environment is not always comfortable. However, conditions should always be as safe as possible. Taking these safety measures will help you keep your employees healthy.
Safety is a priority at Millwood, and heat illness prevention plays a major role. One of our southernmost facilities in Lugoff, SC, which celebrated two years accident-free earlier this year, helps team members avoid heat illnesses by providing them with an ice machine. This is just one of many ways you can help your manufacturing workers beat the heat.