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2024 seasonal temperature outlook report published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts warmer-than-average temperatures for June, July, and August. This means that summer 2024 will be just as hot as summer 2023. 

Therefore, all businesses must prepare adequately to protect their employees from heat-related illnesses to safeguard their health and avoid legal scrutiny from The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, all employers are mandated to protect employees from recognized hazards like intense heat that can cause death or significant physical injuries to employees. 

The last thing any business wants this summer is to pay hefty workers’ compensation claims due to heat-related illnesses or, worse, lose an employee to heat overexposure. Companies should follow these actionable tips to lay out mitigation measures early to shield their workers from heat-related injuries and illnesses.

Create a Site Safety Plan Following Osha’s Guidelines 

Businesses cannot control the intensity of summer heat, but they can prep their outdoor and indoor workplace to alleviate the effects of extreme heat. The best way to modify a workspace is by following OSHA’s guidelines for preventing heat illness at work. These regulations recommend  companies to:

  • Implement the 20% rule: Employees shouldn’t work more than 20% of a shift in extreme heat on their first day. Instead, they should work at an incremental rate of 20% until they acclimatize. The 20% rule is in response to the fact that 3 out of 4 heat fatalities occur in the first week of work. 
  • Create an emergency action plan: Companies should have an instructional document summarizing the steps to manage heat-related illnesses. 
  • Provide plenty of cool drinking water: Employers should consider installing more water dispensers in their outdoor workspaces to make water accessible to all workers. They should urge workers to drink water every 20 minutes to stay hydrated.
  • Invest in summer workwear: Provide workers with protective and heat-friendly clothing like bib overalls, ventilated full-brim hard hats, breathable surveyor vests, and sunscreen.
  • Upgrade or tune-up HVAC system: Cooling units work harder in the summer to reduce heat intensity. In preparation for a hot summer, companies should service their HVAC systems or replace faulty ones.

Watch Out for Heat-Related Emergencies 

Employers should closely monitor their in-action workers for these three heat-related emergencies.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are muscular pain and spasms due to heavy exertion caused by a loss of water and salt through sweating. Workers may experience heat cramps when working outdoors and performing strenuous activities. Common signs and symptoms of heat cramps include:

  • Bouts of nausea 
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Leg cramps and muscle spasms
  • Stiff abdomen

It’s common for workers to experience heat cramps before they fully acclimatize. Shifting to a cooler workspace is often enough to stop heat cramps, but companies should seek medical interventions if a worker becomes unconscious.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is caused by fluid loss, causing blood flow to decrease in vital organs. As a result of dehydration, victims often complain of flu-like symptoms hours after heat exposure. Heat exhaustion is more intense than heat cramps and can trigger heat stroke if not treated early. Common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Cool and moist skin
  • Dizziness and fainting 
  • Headache
  • Disorientation
  • Dark urine 

Heat exhaustion is a serious heat-related illness that warrants medical attention. First-aid interventions include moving victims to a cool area, laying them on their backs with feet elevated 8-10 inches, and spraying cool water on them to calm them. 

Heat Stroke 

Heat stroke is the most severe type of heat-related illness that is LIFE-THREATENING and requires IMMEDIATE MEDICAL care. It occurs when the body’s heat-regulating system fails, and body temperatures rise, so much that brain damage and death may occur unless the body is cooled very quickly.

Common signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Hot and dry skin
  • Seizures
  • Extreme high body temperature up to 105° F

Heat stroke can be fatal, and victims need immediate medical attention. First aid interventions include:

  • Moving victims to a cool area
  • Loosening clothing
  • Dousing a victim’s body with cool water
  • Applying icepacks to a victim’s neck, armpits, and groin

These three emergencies are how heat-related illnesses manifest. Employers should know these conditions and seek preventive measures to avert fatalities. 

Train Employees Best Dietary Habits 

Workers should know dieting is one of the most essential practices because it helps them hydrate and replenish energy. Besides taking plenty of water to stay hydrated, workers should include the following food items in their diet:

  • All-natural sports drinks
  • Fruits such as watermelon and peaches
  • Vegetables such as pickles, cucumbers, pepper, and celery
  • Hot weather snacks such as granola, trail mix, and beef jerky

When workers follow ideal dietary practices, they keep their bodies hydrated and supply them with enough energy to brave the intense summer heat. They should avoid sugary drinks, reduce caffeine intake, and avoid heavy protein-rich meats that increase body heat. 

Adopt Flexible Work Schedules That Favor Workers’ Wellness 

Employers should consider adopting flexible scheduling if the nature of their work allows. If workers can complete work remotely from the comfort of their homes, bosses can spare them the hustle of reporting to the office daily. Workers enjoy greater comfort from the summer heat at home because they can dress in heat-friendly clothing and access unrestricted amenities like swimming pools. 

If a company’s work is blue-collar and can’t be done remotely, managers can still offer workers flexible work schedules. For instance, some workers may be willing to start work earlier in the morning and complete their shifts before the summer heat intensifies. When it’s operationally viable to accommodate flexible schedules, businesses should embrace them fully. 

Invest in Cool Spaces and Enforce Break Times

Companies should install shade structures within their outdoor spaces to give workers an excellent place to rest when the summer heat intensifies. Ideally, these shades should also have a fan and cool water dispensing unit so workers can relax and hydrate simultaneously.

Additionally, business owners should enforce break times so all workers get sufficient rest. Implementing break-time policies is important, as some workers may be too shy to take time off or too involved to care about cooling.

How Resourcing Edge Helps Companies Care for Their Employees During Summer

Companies of all sizes can count on Resourcing Edge to help them pivot their workforce and workplace to prepare for intense summer heat each season. Resourcing Edge has the experience and expertise to customize summer preparation packages for companies in different industries and help them prevent heat-related illnesses. 

Contact Resourcing Edge today, and let us prepare your business and employees for the incoming hot summer. 

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