As we move through spring and temperatures start to rise in most of North America, it’s time to start thinking about avoiding heat stress. Although some parts of the country believe that the cold weather will never end, I assure you it will, and when it does the heat will be on.
Heat-related illnesses range from a mild heat rash and cramping all the way to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition. Now is the time to prepare for the heat that you’ve been hoping for—but will be cursing later on. If you or your employees will be working outdoors or in hot environments, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I planned for a modified work schedule to reduce heat exposure?
- Do I have a sufficient supply of potable water containers and shade covers?
- Are they in good condition?
- Do I need circulating or exhaust fans?
- Do they need maintenance or repair?
- Would adding a misting system improve the work environment?
Although the costs involved with addressing heat-stress issues can seem like a financial burden, the costs are much greater for the medical treatment for injured workers, potential government fines, and even the cost of replacing an experienced productive worker who leaves the company to take a job with better working conditions.
Employees will have a much-improved attitude if they feel that management cares about their health and safety, and is working to make them feel more comfortable and protected. These things can be as valuable as a pay raise to an employee.
Another factor to consider is productivity. Are employees as efficient when their glasses are fogging up or sweat is dripping off their noses? Certainly not. Fewer water and rest breaks might be required if the workplace was 10-12 degrees cooler, which improves productivity. How many errors are made due to heat stress, and how many shortcuts are taken that can lead to unnecessary rework, customer complaints, or worse yet, accident or injury? The numbers could be more significant than you think.
The impact of heat stress varies from worker to worker depending on the level of exertion, physical factors, and climate conditions. A wide variety of PPE and environmental controls are available, and it’s up to management to determine the best way to reduce the chances of heat-stress-related incidents, and to provide a cooler atmosphere. The workers will certainly appreciate it too.
Additional Heat Stress resources: