Caring for a team working outside in the heat
Every team of employees has a unique workplace and a unique set of concerns to avoid injuries, but a team that works outdoors has a set of hazards unlike anyone else. One of the largest concerns for teams working outside, especially in the Sunshine State, is the threat of heat stress. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), here are several recommendations to lessen the strain that the heat can put on your team.
Controlling Heat Stress. Controlling heat stress can be done through work practices, or engineering controls, or both. NIOSH recommends using a heat shield or barrier and increasing air velocity in the workplace. In addition, the company can use practices to control heat stress as well, practices like using tools to minimize strain, increasing the number of workers assigned to a task, training supervisors to look for signs of heat stress, and using a buddy system where teammates observe a buddy periodically looking for signs of heat stress.
Training. Employers can train the team on signs of heat stress and heat-related illnesses. In addition, employers can recommend appropriate clothing for the job and the stress of working in the heat, balancing tasks assigned with needed heat-protective clothing.
Acclimatization. NIOSH recommends allowing teammates new to working outside gradually increase their time spent working in the heat over 7 to 14 days.
- For new workers, the schedule should be no more than 20% of the usual duration of work in the heat on day 1.No more than 20% increase on each additional day.
- For workers with previous experience working outside, , the schedule should be
- No more than 50% of the usual duration of work in the heat on day 1;
- No more than 60% of the usual duration of work in the heat on day 2;
- No more than 80% of the usual duration of work in the heat on day 3;
- No more than 100% of the usual duration of work in the heat on day 4.
Supervisors should also closely supervise new employees for the first 14 days or until they are fully acclimatized. Workers who are not physically fit need more time to fully acclimatize.
Hydration. NIOSH recommends that employers provide the means for appropriate hydration of workers. Water should be potable, <15°C (59°F), and made accessible near the work area.
- Provide individual drinking cups for each worker. Encourage workers to hydrate themselves.
- For moderate activities in the heat that last less than 2 hours, drink 1 cup (8 oz.) of water every 15–20 minutes. If sweating lasts for several hours, drink sports drinks containing balanced electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and drinks with high caffeine or sugar.
Rest Breaks. Employers should ensure and encourage workers to take appropriate rest breaks to cool down and hydrate.Permit rest and water breaks when a worker feels heat discomfort.
- Modify work/rest periods to give the body a chance to get rid of excess heat.
- Assign new and unacclimatized workers lighter work and longer, more frequent rest periods.
- Shorten work periods and increase rest periods as temperature, humidity, and sunshine increase; when there is no air movement; if protective clothing or equipment is worn; or for heavier work.
Caring for your team is one of the goals of occupational medicine. Occupational medical doctors also focus on preventing workplace injuries and helping identify causes of workplace complaints. Can your business and your team benefit from an occupational medical clinic? Call, email, or select “Contact Us” and tell us how we can help.
Who is Jet Medical Center®?
Jet Medical Center® is a leading provider of occupational medicine services in the Tallahassee area. We develop, with our client partners, a customized healthcare plan to fit your company’s needs today and into the future.
Our experienced staff of clinicians provides excellent medical care and understands the Worker’s Compensation system and its impact on your company’s financial health. Your employees will have less downtime with less complications reducing overall medical costs.