Whether it’s your busiest season or business as usual, hot summer temperatures mean a new set of workplace challenges. Workers are feeling sluggish and unmotivated, and the risk of heat-related illnesses is constantly looming no matter where you’re working. While technically there aren’t OSHA standards specifically for heat exposure, employers must provide safe conditions, appropriate summer workwear, and protective gear. These tips can help keep everyone cool at work.
Watch Out for Heat Dangers
Human bodies sweat to cope with excess heat, but that might not be enough to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries. A lot of the effects of excess heat are temporary and preventable, but they can lead to death if not treated.
If someone shows signs of heat exhaustion call 911, move them to a cooler place, and do whatever you can to lower their temperature: offering water, using ice packs, loosening clothing, and turning on fans can all help. Look out for these signs:
- Heavy sweating
- Excessive thirst
- Muscle cramps
- Heat rash
Establish or Refresh Your Policies
Administrative controls can prevent a lot of heat illnesses. We recommend training employees on how to protect themselves as well as daily health and hydration checks. Help everyone gradually become acclimated to the heat, especially if the seasons change dramatically where you work or you have new employees that haven’t faced those challenges yet. Mandate routine breaks—especially during acclimation periods, or when doing strenuous work in hot conditions—to avoid discomfort and illness.
Provide Water and Cooling Stations
Part of mandated routine breaks should include getting drinks: aim for one pint per hour. If you’re working outdoors, make sure that there’s cold water available to everyone within the work area, ideally in a shady location out of direct sunlight. Cooling towels should also be used on the neck, face, and other pressure points to stay cool and dry—both key to comfort when it's hot and you're working up a sweat at work.
Offer and Maintain Proper Gear
Your gear should not only offer protection for the work you’re doing but should also be comfortable to work in while in hot conditions. An adjustable full-brimmed hard hat with vents can comfortably keep the sun out of your face and minimize heat buildup under its shell; lightweight ranger hats can also work if you need sun protection but not necessarily hard hat protection. Safety glasses and goggles with UVA/UVB protection should keep the sun and other hazards out of your eyes. Keep skin covered up with lightweight, breathable workwear. But if skin is exposed, sunscreen should be readily available and reapplied throughout the day to prevent sunburn.
PK Safety can help you get equipped for the summer. Whether you need hard hats or ranger hats, safety glasses or reflective face shields, cooling towels, sunscreen, first aid kits, or other PPE, we have trusted gear from brands like PIP and the expertise to answer your questions. Contact our safety experts online or by calling 800.829.9580.