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Safety Management Insights

How Do I Prevent Heat Illness In the Workplace?

Posted by Don Brown on Jul 10, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Prevent_heat_illnessHeat illness is an all-too-common occurrence during the summer, costing lost time and money.

It can even be deadly.

That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a nationwide campaign to prevent heat-related illnesses in the workplace. According to OSHA statistics, there were 31 heat-related workplace deaths and roughly 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses in 2012 alone. The same threat looms this year as temperatures continue to climb.

Fortunately, heat-related sickness and death are preventable – and it's your responsibility as an employer to provide the right environment and policies to protect your workforce.

Here are four of the best, most cost-effective ways to keep your employees safe during these hot summer months.

A Heat Illness Prevention Campaign

If any of your workers are frequently exposed to high levels of heat and humidity, you'll need to establish some day-to-day practices to prevent heat illness. That includes:

  • Reminding workers to drink water several times per hour, even when they're not thirsty.

  • Encouraging frequent breaks in the shade and establishing a designated “cool down” area

  • Reminding workers to wear billed hats and light-colored clothes.

  • Encouraging employees to monitor fellow workers for signs of dehydration and fatigue

  • Making sure they know where to seek medical attention, especially if they are temporary workers who are less familiar with the worksite

Adjust Scheduling Based on Conditions

Allow your workers to build up to their usual workloads once temperatures begin to increase. Allowing them to become acclimated to the heat is not only important for their safety – it will actually benefit your business. While it may take a week or two to ramp up to normal levels of production, the time lost due to heat cramps, exhaustion and heat strokes will be far more costly in the long run if your workers don't ease into things slowly.

Whenever possible, avoid scheduling the most labor-intensive work during the heat of the day, when the sun is most intense. That may involve staggering shifts and scheduling employees to come in earlier in the morning or later in the evening.

Incident Investigation and Reporting 

In addition to a thorough illness prevention program, one of the best ways to keep your workers safe in the heat is to manage all your illness reports with an integrated safety database – even those that don't result in claims. By recording each and every incident that occurs on your job sites, you can create a comprehensive set of heat-related illness data that provides insight into why those incidents occur, where they occur and what you can do to stop similar injuries in the future.

An All-in-One Safety Management System

While common spreadsheet applications will record plenty of basic illness-related information, they are unwieldy and don't allow you to comprehensively assess all the unique factors and circumstances that may be causing heat-related injuries. 

BasicSafe’s safety management software tools allow you to track incidents and manage corrective actions. In addition to information on the type, time and severity of any given incident, you can record additional, customized information such as at-risk behaviors and injury sources. Our Incident Investigation and Reporting module lets you report the exact data OSHA requires, and it automatically generates OSHA's 301, 300 and 300A forms.

Comprehensive safety software also allows managers to assign and track specific actions designed to address recent incidents and prevent similar occurrences. BasicSafe's Action Management tool includes action assignment that streamlines communication between managers and employees, including email notifications, lists of outstanding and completed actions and complete histories of comments and files for each action.

With proper educating, awareness and incident tracking, you can be proactive in shielding your workers from dangerous heat-related illnesses on the job.

For more ways to keep track of your company's safety this summer and beyond, download our free guide, “9 Ways to Make Your Job As Safety Manager Easier.”

9 Ways to Make Your Job as a Safety Manager Easier