The hot summer months are upon us. With increased heat and humidity workers become more susceptible to heat related illnesses. Workers that are not accustomed to working in the heat can quickly become ill, experience heat stroke which can lead to serious illness and even death. There are a few things to keep in mind about heat related illness and what you can do to help prevent it in your material handling and warehousing operations.
Train your employees about the dangers of heat related illnesses. OSHA has excellent training information and materials to help you relate this information to all of your employees that work in the heat. Part of that training should be to recognize the symptoms of heat related illnesses and to act upon them immediately. Never shun it off and continue working. The symptoms exist for a reason!
Understand that all employees are not equally able to resist the heat. Employees should be able to assess their own conditioning, how they handle heat. Employees that are taking certain prescriptions or have certain chronic illnesses, like diabetes, need to pay special attention to how they feel while working. Employees that are new to outdoor jobs are some of the most susceptible to heat related illnesses. Try to ease them into the normal workload gradually, until you’re confident they are acclimated.
Improve Access to Water
Provide additional water stations during the hotter months, at more convenient locations and encourage employees to drink water every 15 minutes or so, based on temperature. Never wait until you are thirsty to start re-hydrating.
Give them a Break
Provide for more frequent breaks. In the long-run employees will be more productive in the heat if they are getting proper rest to allow their bodies to cool down and keeping themselves better hydrated during these breaks.
Be More Shady
For employees working outdoors provide areas to escape the sun for their breaks. Some install series of smaller pop-up style protection, others will rent large more permanent tent-style protection for workers to get a short respite from the sun. Exposure to the sun increases body heat, heart rate, perspiration and likelyhood of heat exhaustion.
Proper ventilation and air movement inside your warehouse or material handling facility is very important in keeping the temperature at safe levels and you workers cool. Ceiling fans, screen doors for warehouse dock doors, and roof vents are great ways to keep your facility comfortable and more productive.
OSHA has provided a wealth of information to help you provide a safe atmosphere to deal with summer heat. While OSHA does not have a standard pertaining to preventing heat illnesses, it is up to us to be sure we have done everything that we can do to help our employees stay safe and avoid heat related illnesses.
Well trained and equipped employees are more productive employees. Keeping them safe from the heat during the summer months ensures better productivity for tomorrow and years beyond. But it is up to us as the employers to be sure they are prepared to related and act accordingly to ensure their own safety.