Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat. Any company that employs a significant number of outdoor workers needs to take the time to review its policies regarding the protection of those workers from the elements. With OSHA’s New Heat Safety App, employers can have vital safety information available whenever and wherever they need it — right on their mobile phone. The App allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to outdoor workers. Then, with a simple click, employers can receive reminders about the protective measures that should be taken—such as drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness….
OSHA has no specific regulations addressing employer responsibility for heat- and sun-related hazards. However, the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) rule does state that employers must provide both protective equipment and employee training to workers if they work under certain conditions. Sunlight and heat-common enemies in the construction industry-are included in these environmental hazards. PPE can include clothing that protects the eyes, face, head, and extremities of an employee, as well as protective shields, barriers and shields.
You can begin to protect your company by adhering to the following helpful guidelines:
- While removing outdoor jobs from sunlight is impractical in most cases, you do have control over when work shifts occur. You might be able to schedule shifts to maximize the hours worked before or after the peak sun times of the day, which occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can also rotate workers in and out of non-shaded areas of the job site to avoid overexposure of any one group of employees, and provide shaded break areas.
- Require employees to use PPE. Protective eyewear-such as UV-resistant sunglasses-and hats with wide brims are recommended, as are lightweight long-sleeved shirts to protect against skin cancer factors. Additionally, all outdoor employees should wear a sun block of at least 15 SPF and apply it at the beginning and middle of each shift. Provide training on use of these PPE.
- Finally, educate your employees on prevention and early detection. Inform them of the early signs of heat exhaustion, dehydration, and skin cancer. Early detection can prevent almost all serious ailments.
Don’t wait until to employ preventative measures. Review and revise your current policy now, so that you can educate your workers and avoid heat-related incidents.
Tim Spear is a Client Advisor at Gulfshore Insurance. Tim works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk management and commercial property and casualty insurance guidance.