Keeping your crews safe goes beyond safety training and harnesses. With the summer temperatures rising and high heat conditions upon us, it is vital that safety precautions are in place to protect your workers. In addition to high heat conditions leading to injury, and even fatalities, failing to protect employees working in extreme heat is an OSHA violation.
According to OSHA, every year dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. Moreover, 40%+ of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, and conditions are not just limited to dehydration; there are a variety of heat illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards, and extreme heat is considered a significant hazard. In order to educate employers and the public, OSHA runs a campaign (Water.Rest.Shade) with the intention of keeping more workers safe under high heat conditions. An employer should establish a complete heat illness prevention program that includes but is not limited to:
- Water, Rest and Shade – While it may appear obvious, water, rest and shade are three concepts that should be integrated into your daily routine and safety practices. It’s quite simple… As an employer, it is crucial that you provide your crews with plenty of water, appropriate breaks and rest as well as shaded areas on the jobsite.
- Make a Plan – Having a plan for new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they adjust or build their tolerance for working in high heat conditions.
- Training and Prepare – Plan ahead for heat related illnesses, injuries and emergencies; make sure all team members are equally and properly trained to handle potential scenarios.
- Monitor for Symptoms – Have the site supervisor monitor workers (and workers monitor each other) for signs of heat related issues or illnesses.
To monitor the most common of symptoms for serious heat related illnesses, OSHA offers a simple go-to reference guide covering symptoms and first aid measures that should be taken if a worker shows signs of a heat-related illness. The full chart can be found by visiting their list of symptoms here.
While recognizing symptoms can be lifesaving in certain situations, prevention is the best way to stay ahead of heat stroke and other illnesses. The most direct way to do this is simple: Keep the work environment cooler. OSHA lists a variety of engineering controls that can reduce workers’ exposure to heat, and they are as follows:
- Air conditioning (such as air-conditioned crane or construction equipment cabs, air-conditioned break rooms)
- Increased general ventilation
- Cooling fans
- Local exhaust ventilation at points of high heat production or moisture
- Reflective shields to redirect radiant heat
- Insulation of hot surfaces (such as furnace walls)
- Elimination of steam leaks.
In addition to keeping the environment and conditions as cool as possible, employers should have a clear emergency plan in place, as well as ensure that drinking water is always replenished and close to the work area. As with any safety plan, first aid practices should be clearly understood and demonstrated by your team, and all personal protective equipment (coolmax clothing, wide brim hats, sunblock, etc.) should be required and provided by the employer. Make sure your crews are current on the latest CPR and First Aid practices through appropriate training such as the program offered through Brauner Safety Services.
With proper preparation and training, your crews can and should stay safe and hydrated on the job. By putting your teams’ health and safety first, you are not simply fulfilling a legal obligation – You are showing them that you care about their well-being and are actively working to provide them with a safe and secure workplace.
To learn more about how Brauner Safety Services can prepare your crews with proper safety training, including CPR and First Aid and the latest OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 now offered in English and Spanish, contact Brauner Safety Services.