As an employer, you understand the importance of providing a safe environment for your employee’s well-being. According to OSHA, employers are required to provide a safe workplace void of any potential hazards that can cause harm to employees.
This includes preventing employees from overheating and causing heat illness.
Being in the midst of the summer months, heat illness is a real risk, and as an employer, you should ensure your employees are educated on the symptoms of heat illness as well as how their health and activities can cause or prevent overheating.
How to Recognize the Symptoms
There are different types of heat illnesses and symptoms. An uncomfortable and painful heat rash can cause severe itching. Heat Cramps and heat exhaustion occur with too much perspiration; the loss of body salt and water causes severe muscle cramps or spasms in the back, stomach, arms and legs. With heat exhaustion, an individual will have cool or pale skin, nausea, headache, weakness, vomiting and a fast pulse.
Probably the most dangerous heat illness is heatstroke. A heat stroke causes:
- High body temperature
- Sweat stops
- Red, dry skin
- Rapid breathing and pulse
Employees can take the right steps to treat heat illness when they recognize the symptoms and severity of what it can cause.
How to Identify Personal Risk Factors
Educating employees on personal risk factors can help them understand their limitations as well as how to take precautionary measures when working in hot workplace environments.
It’s important to note some health factors, like age or pre-existing medical conditions, really can’t be changed. Medical history can cause employees to be less tolerant to heat including:
- Short-term disorders and minor illnesses
- Chronic skin disorders
- Previous heatstroke
But, some factors are choices. As an example, the use of alcohol or drugs or taking prescription medication can affect an employee’s tolerance to heat. Being in good health is important in combating heat illnesses. Cornerstone Insurance Group works with employers to help educate employees on avoiding heat illness.
How to Acclimate & Hydrate
People respond to heat differently. Acclimating to the heat is important. According to OSHA, adjusting to heat usually takes five to seven days, but it can take a few weeks. Employers should train employees on how to acclimate as well as how to stay properly hydrated.
Your employees should be aware of what heat illness looks like and how your worksite procedures address it.
How to Treat Heat Illness Symptoms
Educate your employees on what to do if one of their peers is showing signs of heat illness. If heat illness is suspected, employees should act quickly to get the individual out of the sun and provide cool water or an electrolyte-replacement beverage.
When it comes to the more serious heat-induced illnesses, it’s important employees know how to seek medical attention immediately and try to cool the individual with cold water, compresses, ice and ice packs, or by fanning them. If an employee has heatstroke, an ambulance should be called quickly; heatstroke requires emergency treatment.
Ultimately, the best way to prevent heat illness from occurring in a workplace environment is to identify the risks and be proactive.
Conduct a Heat Assessment
Heat illness assessments evaluate a wide range of risk factors including:
- Workplace temperature
- Heat radiation
- Air movement
- Employee workload
Cornerstone Insurance Group can help employers with a Heat Illness Assessment Checklist as part of our risk management program. Even if your employees have to work in a heated environment, there are still steps you can take to limit the risk of heat illness.
Scheduling the most difficult or physically taxing jobs for the coolest part of the day and allowing employees to work more slowly during the hottest periods of the day help reduce the risk of heat illness. Schedule routine maintenance or tasks during cooler seasons. For indoor work, these routine tasks can be completed when hot operations are shut down.
Supervising your employees in high-risk environments will allow you to oversee and manage work and rest cycles. Managers should monitor workers closely or require work to be done in pairs or groups. Instill a buddy system to help spot signs of heat illnesses and try to reduce activity levels during the peak periods of potential risk and be ready with the appropriate treatment.
Employees need to be able to recognize, treat and practice safe ways to prevent heat illness from the onset. The best way you can protect your employees from heat illness is by establishing a proactive plan to create a safe work environment.
Do you have a plan and procedures in place to protect and prepare your employees to combat heat illness and reduce potential long-term health risks?
Cornerstone Insurance Group is your workplace safety and risk management partner. We care about the well-being of your employees and your business. We can help you assess and address any potential risks for heat illness in your workplace.
Contact Cornerstone Insurance Group today for more tools and resources to ensure the health and safety of your workforce.
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