Important Safety Tips for Outdoor Workers In Hot Summer Months

 

Thousands of Workers Become Sick Every Year from Heat
 
Not all of us have the luxury of spending the hot summer months working inside an air conditioned office.  A good percentage of the labor workforce has to be outside for hours and hours each day, battling the blazing sun and high humidity.  Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat, and some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable, usually by taking some simple steps to help your workforce during the summer months. [WCx]
 
Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment while working outside. Some workers might be at even greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to working in hot conditions.  Workers that live in Wisconsin may not be able to handle the heat as well as some workers in Arizona due to the overall climate and the fact that they just are not used to being around high levels of heat and humidity. Some employers send people around the US for various jobs that need to be done.  Special precautions should be made for those workers who may not be as used to working in the heat as those in whatever states they are sent to work in. Be sure they know about the conditions, and allow them to voice any concerns they may have. Educate them on the risks of working outside, even if they think they know what the job will entail.  Sure they can complete the job, but are the taking the outdoor conditions into account?
 
 
Body Temperature Can Rise to Dangerous Levels without Precautions
 
The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn't enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from sunburn, heat rash, and heat cramps to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention. Some people at risk of heat stroke may not show obvious symptoms until it could be too late to help them, especially if you are working in remote areas far away from proper medical attention.  This risk could increase with new workers, who are afraid to talk to management about feeling ill because they feel that it could cost them their new job.
 
 
Prevent with Water, Rest, Shade, and Good Communication
 
So how can heat illness be prevented? Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade. Drinking water often, taking several smaller breaks, and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness. Also attempt to do the heavier tasks earlier in the morning, when the sun and heat is not at its full capacity.  Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Gradually build up to heavy work in hot conditions. This helps you build tolerance to the heat – or become acclimated. Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimated, especially workers who are new to working outdoors in the heat or have been away from work for a while. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first weeks of work. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do — acting quickly can save lives! Some symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, heavy breathing, and minor shaking, among others. [WCx]
 
Communication is key.  Workers outside need to know that they can take breaks as needed if they have to, without fear of being punished for taking too long to complete a job.  Onsite managers should be there to help with this, and enforce the break times as needed. Sometimes shade is not readily available, so cooling stations or areas indoors that can be used to take breaks should be made available.  Only use the heavy protective gear as it is needed, you shouldn’t have workers standing around in heavy gear unless they are readily using it for whatever job they may be working on.  Also you can have workers complete their tasks in shifts, so a fresh team can move in and out which will give everyone a break from the conditions.
 
 
Use High SPF to Prevent Skin Disorders
 
Exposure to sun can also be deadly in the form of skin disorders.  Those with fairer skin may burn easier than those with other complexions, and you should always have a stocked supply of sunblock around for your workers to use. Make sure you use a high SPF, and it is always better to provide waterproof and sweat proof sun block versus the normal. We have all had sunburn at one time or another throughout our lives, so remember how bad sunburn can hurt, and how the symptoms often do not set in until you have already had a good amount of sun exposure.  Sunblock should be applied 15-30 minutes prior to the sun exposure, and again a short time after your workers have been outside and working.  Even if your workers claim to “never burn” out in the sun, don’t take their word on it.  Make your workers use the sunblock every day, and remind them to reapply often.
 
 
Summary
 
The dog days of summer are upon us, and special care should be made for your outdoor workers if you have them.  Be sure to remind your workers about the risks of working short and long hours outside, and tell them to voice any issues or concerns they may have when on the job.  As we always say, it is better to be safe than sorry!
 
 
 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. She is the author of the #1 selling book on cost containment, Workers Compensation Management Program: Reduce Costs 20% to 50%. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

 

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com

 


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MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

It is HOT Outside, Steps Employers Should Take to Beat the Heat

 

BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT

It is summer and great time to review your heat stress compliance.
I am sure all of those who work outdoors have seen information on heat stress or heat exhaustion. As employers, we have much responsibility when it comes to temperature extremes.
 
 
Just like any safety situation, OSHA requires us to follow the standard Administrative, Engineering or PPE hazard assessment. So let’s start with this in mind and go through a few possible actions. All of these actions will reduce exposure, increase productivity, and complete compliance requirements. I can not stress enough how many times following this line of thinking has increased productivity by leaps and bounds. If you are diligent you WILL see bottom line results that will have you smiling.
 
Steps You Can Take As an Employer
 
Administrative Actions
 
First we must look at the administrative actions we can take to keep workers safe. This is accomplished by looking into time spent in the sun. Can we rotate workers from tasks in direct sun limiting the exposure time? This is difficult and will only be an option on a small percentage of jobs. However, if possible, this can be a very effective means of limiting work time in the sun. Other administrative possibilities are changing the time the work is done. Can it be done at night? Can employees show up early each day and do the hardest labor first? Think along these lines and many solutions are likely to become clear.
 
Engineering Controls
 
Our next step will be with engineering controls. Can you install cover for shade? Shading your workers from direct sunlight will lower the temperature enough to make work more comfortable. Other engineering actions include installation and use of fans. Local and general ventilation will lower temperatures. These are just a few examples of engineering controls possibile. All jobs are unique – many solutions are there if you are diligent about assessing each situation.
 
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
 
Finally we have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  Advances in PPE that provide protection and give significant cost returns are many; with new products appearing on the market regularly and often. I can not stress enough the importance of contacting your safety vendor and having a long talk with them about the type work you do. They will have several options and you can choose what fits your task best
 
Personal Protective Equipment starts with clothing. The most common error many of us make is to remove clothing. Covering the skin is very much like the shade. Take a look at anyone that comes from a country with constantly hot temperatures. Have you ever seen a Sheik from the Middle East in shorts and a T shirt? NO! They come from a place on earth where the ambient temperature is always high and they cover almost 100% of their body in white.
 
Light color is the first consideration as it reflects sun rather than absorbing it as dark colors do. Garments made of cotton or other material that absorb water and allow for slower evaporation will cool your body. Next we have cool vests; new technology in these has resulted in light weight vests at a reasonable cost. They have cool packs that insert into pockets in the vest and last up to two hours. You can purchase extra cool packs as needed to keep in a cooler and rotate them through the day. These are very effective; I have client that tells me productivity is up 25% or more since adding cool vests. They can pay for themselves in one pay period. Employees love them and you can expect an increase in morale.
 
Of course, employers are responsible for providing sufficient water and disposable cups for all employees. I highly recommend in extreme heat days or high work load days to also provide electrolyte drinks.
 
Note: While not required, I highly recommend keeping an ear thermometer on all jobs. I advise at least one in each first aid kit. These will easily and quickly assess core temperature, which is key in determining if an employee is at risk of, or is overheating, which can rapidly turn into an unnecessary tragedy without prompt intervention.
 
 
Training is Critical
 
Finally, training is critical. In the summer heat any of us, even those with training, can quickly fall victim to heat stress. Train your employees with the solutions you have learned from your hazard assessment. You should purchase PPE that works best or your situation and train employees how to properly use it.  Encourage team involvement; this is one area where we all need to watch out for each other as it may well mean saving a life. Keep eyes on your fellow workers, if you see them having any symptoms, stop them from working and follow the steps below. Employers, I encourage posting the signs and symptoms below on the worksite.
 
Bottom line here is that with a bit of planning, forethought, and action you can protect your employees, increase productivity and have a safe and compliant worksite. I encourage all to take a look at this time of year at these and other possibilities. It is a win-win situation that your employees will appreciate. When properly implemented, your heat stress program will not only keep you in compliance, it will increase productivity and morale.
 
Heat Stress Symptoms & Action Steps
 
Heat exhaustion, or heat stress, can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion to potentially life-threatening heatstroke.
Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion often begin suddenly, sometimes after excessive exercise, heavy perspiration, and inadequate fluid or salt intake.
 
Signs and symptoms resemble those of shock and may include:
 
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid, weak heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cool, moist, pale skin
  • Low-grade fever
  • Heat cramps
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dark-colored urine
 
If you suspect heat exhaustion:
 
  • Get the person out of the sun and into a shady or air-conditioned location.
  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.
  • Loosen or remove the person's clothing.
  • Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.
  • Cool the person by spraying or sponging with cool water and fanning.
  • Monitor the person carefully. Heat exhaustion can quickly become heatstroke.
 
Call 911 or emergency medical help if the person's condition deteriorates, especially if fainting, confusion or seizures occur, or if fever of 103.F or greater occurs with other symptoms.
 
 
 
Author Brian Hill is owner of OshaSure in Birmingham Alabama and has over 20 years as a workplace safety and risk consultant. Brian was previously a pilot for a major US airline and member of the company’s interdepartmental safety committee. He found his new career in safety after the closing of the airline in 1991. Brian has found the same passion he had for flying in assisting companies with safety, heath and risk issues.
For more information click on www.oshasure.com
 
 

Editor Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher.  www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com Contact mstack@reduceyourworkerscomp.com


 


WORKERS COMP MANAGEMENT MANUAL:  www.WCManual.com
MODIFIED DUTY CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/transitional-duty-cost-calculator.php

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

©2012 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact us at: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Questionable Response to Heat Illness in Amazon Warehouse

 The Morning Call, an eastern Pennsylvania newspaper, recently broke an investigative story about brutal work conditions inside an Amazon.com warehouse in the Lehigh Valley. Information in the series was so startling that the story was quickly picked up by news giants such as The Washington Post and  The Chicago Tribune.
 
 
Morning Call reporter Spencer Soper interviewed 20 current and former Amazon warehouse workers during the investigation. The interviewees reported extreme temperatures, production goals that were impossible to meet, and the use of only temporary workers hired by an outside agency preventing employees from gaining full-time work there. (WCxKit)
 
 
One of Soper’s sources said he quit because of mandatory overtime in temperatures above 100 degrees. Others cited seeing 15 workers (including at least two pregnant woman) carried out one day due to heat exhaustion.
 
 
“He got light-headed, he said, and his legs cramped, symptoms he never experienced in previous warehouse jobs,” Soper reported, adding witnessed accounts of workers passing out at the water fountain and paramedics bringing people out of the warehouse in wheelchairs and on stretchers.
 
 
Soper wrote, “Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.”
 
 
Other reports said the site safety manager, Allen Forney, “had measures in place to manage heat risk before OSHA's inspection, including heat-index sensors installed that notify warehouse managers when the index exceeds 90 degrees. Amazon purchased 2,000 cooling bandannas, which were given to every employee, and those in the dock/trailer yard received cooling vests, Forney said.”
 
 
Soper reported among Amazon’s solutions to the high temperatures was to have paramedics parked in ambulances outside and replacement workers at the ready. He also concluded that the poor economy left Amazon with the power to chose and abuse an overflowing population of people who want jobs. (WCxKit)
 
 
Multiple reports through June and July to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including at least one from an emergency room doctor, led to August recommendations the company reduce heat in the warehouse and give employees breaks every hour.
 

Author Rebecca Shafer
, JD, President of Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing, publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.
 
 

Our WORKERS COMP BOOK:  www.WCManual.com
 
 

 

WORK COMP CALCULATOR:  www.LowerWC.com/calculator.php
 
Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.
 
©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

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