Tips for Managing Work During Heat Waves

Heat waves can not only create project delays, they can also be deadly. There are many ways to mitigate the health effects of heat waves and keep both your site and your workers safe.

Although this has been a somewhat mild spring here in the northeast, the heat waves and high-heat indexes of the summer are coming. If you have employees whose work responsibilities are primarily working outdoors, you need to plan accordingly to avoid heat-related illnesses and potential fatalities.

Here are some tips for managing during heat waves

  1. Know the forecast
    Before beginning the work week, take a look at the forecast so you know which days there will be a heat wave. Then check again on a daily basis to assess risk.
  2. Download a weather app to your phone or use the one that OSHA created specifically for heat wave safety. OSHA’s app is available for both Apple and Android phones, in English or Spanish. You can get a location-based calculation of the heat index where you are and a low to high risk level. Based on the risk level, it will also give you precautionary measures that can be taken during heat waves.

Temperature alone is not enough on which to base your precautions. Instead, use the heat index, which takes into account humidity levels as well.

  1. Provide shade, rest, and water.
    When the heat index is high, workers should have more frequent breaks, plenty of water, and a shaded place to rest.  Plan ahead to ensure you have adequate supplies (water coolers, cups, shade devices, fans, etc.).

New workers or those coming back to work after a week or more off, need more frequent breaks and less strenuous tasks until they become acclimatized to the heat.

  1. Train workers. During the summer months heat waves, have regular toolbox talks that review the duration of a heat waves and dangerous heat levels expected.  Explain the methods being used to reduce risk.
  2. Review the emergency action plans. Teach workers to know the symptoms of heat stroke, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat rash. Everyone should be aware of what they should do if they feel any symptoms themselves, or notice them in others.

Working in direct sunlight can increase the heat index by 15 degrees. Encourage workers to wear sunscreen or work in the shade whenever possible.

  1. Create a Heat Stress Management Plan.
    If your employer doesn’t already have one in place, request that they create one. A heat stress management plan is just what it sounds like, a plan for what to do when the heat index reaches hazardous levels. It’s a written plan that outlines the company’s procedures and can be modified to meet the needs of your particular jobsite. A good plan will account for work/rest cycles, acclimatization practices, rest areas, and specific actions that will be taken at the worksite based on the heat index level.

Enforce rest periods during heat waves

A fatality will hold up your schedule much more than a 15 minute break in the shade.  During rest periods, workers should be seated in the shade, drinking water, and engaged in only very light activities such as attending a meeting, completing paper work, or watching a training video.

For more information on preventing heat-related illnesses check out OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers.

Need help writing a Heat Stress Management Plan?

Compliance Consultants, Inc. can help you assess the biggest heat risk factors on your job site and help you develop a Heat Management Plan.

Get started today! Contact CCI.

Need Heat Stress training for your workers?   CCI can do that too!