Every year in the United States, high heat during the summer leads to injuries, illness, and even death. On average, 89 percent of all work-related deaths have occurred in the summer months of June through September, when the country experiences more extreme heat, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Heat Illness Prevention plans can help prevent heat injury and death and protect workers from a life-threatening illness. Here are five important elements that every effective heat injury prevention program should contain.
- Employee Heat-Related Hazards Training – Ensure that employees receive heat illness prevention training before working in hot conditions. The symptoms of heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or other heat-related illness include muscle cramping, dizziness, confusion, high body temperature, nausea, and more. Employees should be trained to recognize the symptoms of heat illnesses in themselves and their co-workers and know what to do should they occur.
- Supervisors Training – Supervisors should be taught the importance of providing a safe work environment free of recognized risks. Supervisors should ensure that employees are trained on heat-related illness prevention and know the early symptoms of heat illness to prevent the onset of life-threatening symptoms. Supervisors should also know how to prevent heat illness and what to do in the case of a heat illness emergency.
- Provide Drinking Water – Employers should provide adequate amounts of clean potable water at no cost to employees. Drinking water must always be accessible to employees and should be replenished throughout the workday.
- Access to Shade – Employers should always provide enough shade to accommodate all employees during rest and break periods. Shade should be located as close as practical to employees to encourage employees to get out of the direct sunlight during break and rest periods. Shade should not cause exposure to other health and safety hazards.
- Encourage Cool-Down Periods – Employees should be encouraged and trained to take cool-down periods in the shade. Supervisors should monitor employees during cool-down rests to determine if they are experiencing symptoms of heat illness. Employees experiencing heat symptoms should not be released to work until heat illness symptoms have abated. Supervisors should be trained in first aid steps and emergency response procedures.
For more information on preventing heat illness at work, watch ICW Group’s 10 Steps to Beat the Heat & Stay Cool webinar and visit our Heat Illness Prevention page for more resources and heat illness trainings.