Workplace Safety 101: Hot Environments
Summer is in full swing... and so is the heat! Unfortunately, not everybody has the luxury of working in an air-conditioned environment in the summertime. If you have a job that requires you to work outdoors, it's important to be able to recognize and treat heat-related illnesses. Better yet, you should be aware of proper health and safety practices that will help prevent heat stress.
Heat-related illnesses generally onset quickly—and working outside only speeds up the process. Causes of heat stress include: heavy work clothes, physical exertion, radiant heat from machines or surfaces, personal protective equipment and and humidity.
Follow these guidelines to make sure you and your employees stay safe while working in hot weather:
• Dress Appropriately: If possible, wear thin, light-coloured clothing that fits loosely. Avoid extra layers, as they can cause your body to overheat and lead to exhaustion. Don't forget a hat and sunscreen!
• Stay in Shape: Research has proven that people who are in good physical shape are better able to tolerate high temperature work environments. Eat light, healthy meals, avoid alcohol and exercise regularly; encourage your team to do the same.
• Start Early: Adjust your work schedule to start shifts earlier in the morning when the temperature is cooler. Not only will this reduce the amount of time team members have to spend in the heat, but it also means an earlier end to your work day—bonus!
• Monitor: Check the temperature outside every hour or so. Monitor how your team members are dealing with the heat. If you find they are struggling to get their work done, it might be time for a water break. Unfortunately, it might even be time to cut your losses and call it a day... better safe than sorry!
• Educate: Be sure to include working in hot environments as part of your company's workplace safety training. It's important that your staff members know how vital it is to replace fluids and recognize dehydration and exhaustion. Make sure your team members are aware of the symptoms of and how to treat heat-related illnesses.
Symptoms of heat-related illnesses can vary in severity, from mild heat rashes to severe drops in blood pressure. Here's a list of some of the most common symptoms:
- Muscle cramps
- Dark-coloured urine
- Weakness, fainting or dizziness
- Headaches, nausea or vomiting
- Increased heart and respiration rates
If you suspect you might be experiencing some sort of heat stress, get medical aid immediately. Move to an air-conditioned environment, drink plenty of water and remove any unnecessary or heavy clothing.
For more information on workplace safety for hot environments, watch ABL Employment's video on Heat Stress here. A leading staffing agency in the GTA, ABL Employment specializes in finding our employees temporary and temporary-to-permanent general labour jobs, like packaging jobs, assembly line jobs and automotive jobs.