Summer Safety Hazards: Protect Your Employees Working Outdoors From Heat Stress & Other Dangers

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The summer season brings with it workplace hazards that can harm employees. Now is the time to remind workers about seasonal dangers, including heat stress, sun exposure, poisonous plants, and bites from disease-carrying arachnids and insects like ticks and mosquitoes. Helping employees stay safe and healthy all summer can assist in maintaining productivity and avoiding costly workers’ compensation claims.

HAZARD 1: Heat Stress

According to Scott Stohrer, Regional Risk Control Manager at PMA, “Employees not recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat stress, and therefore not taking breaks and hydrating, is one of our top outdoor safety concerns.”

“Heat stress” is a term for several heat-related illnesses that can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory complications, renal failure, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney stones in workers. Three types of heat-related illness include:

  1. Heat cramps: These are muscle spasms caused by salt and water loss. They often occur in the arms, legs, or trunk (chest, abdomen, pelvis, and back).
  2. Heat exhaustion: Symptoms include fatigue, irritability, thirst, nausea or vomiting, dizziness or lightheadedness, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature, and rapid heart rate. Any employee experiencing these symptoms should receive first aid.
  3. Heat stroke: The symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, unconsciousness, seizures, heavy sweating or hot/dry skin, body temperature above 103 degrees, and rapid heart rate. This is an emergency medical condition – call 911 immediately.

Incorporating the following tips into standard practice can assist in reducing heat stress exposures.

Safety Tips:

  1. Provide workers with water at all job sites. Ensure workers hydrate before, during, and after work to prevent heat illness.
  2. Modify work schedules. Monitor temperatures throughout the day and modify work schedules to limit strenuous activity during peak hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also allow frequent rest periods with water breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas...