There’s always hard work to be done when you run a small business—even during the hottest days of the summer. In fact, if your business operates in construction, landscaping, agriculture, or another outdoor industry, summer may very well be your busiest season.

Common hazards of working in the heat

Working in hot conditions can be risky. Heat stress can impact your employees’ fine motor skills and decrease job performance and productivity—it can even result in serious illness and hospitalization. In worse cases, prolonged heat exposure can be fatal.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in just one year, “exposure to environmental heat led to 37 work-related deaths and 2,830 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work. Thirty-three of the 37 fatal work injuries caused by exposure to environmental heat occurred in the summer months of June through September.”

Workers who are over-exposed to high temperatures on the job can experience heatstroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash, sunburn, and more. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides these recommendations for serious heat-related illnesses: 

Heat cramps

Symptoms of heat cramps occur during physical exertion and can include heavy sweating and muscle pain or spasms. The CDC advises stopping the physical activity and waiting for the heat cramps to subside, moving the person to a cooler place, and drinking water or a sports drink. If the cramps last longer than an hour or the person has a heart condition or is on a low-sodium diet, they should get medical help right away.

Heat exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include pale, cold, and clammy skin; heavy sweating; nausea or vomiting; weak, fast pulse; tiredness or weakness; muscle cramps; dizziness; headache; or fainting. The CDC advises that you move the person to a cool place, lower temperature with cool cloths, and give sips of water. The CDC also recommends seeking immediate medical help if the person is throwing up or has symptoms that last longer than an hour or worsen over time.

Heatstroke

Symptoms of heatstroke can include high body temperature; dry, red, hot, or damp skin; a strong, fast pulse; headache; nausea; dizziness; confusion; and loss of consciousness. In the case of heatstroke, the CDC advises that you call 911 immediately, move the person to a cool place, help lower their temperature with cool cloths, and do not give them anything to drink.

15 hot weather tips for employers and workers

In addition to looking for signs of heatstroke, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps, small business owners can take other specific measures to protect employees. Use these tips to shield your workers from sun exposure and heat stress as temperatures begin to rise.

  1. Provide water and sports drinks for your employees.

  2. Encourage employees to skip the caffeine before and during work to avoid dehydration.

  3. Suggest workers eat smaller meals and snacks and avoid a big, heavy lunch.

  4. Set up fans, air conditioning, evaporative cooling, tents, or umbrellas.

  5. Schedule outdoor work and physically demanding tasks for early morning, late afternoon, and evenings.

  6. Allow for frequent breaks and schedule shorter shifts during summer.

  7. Help workers gradually acclimate to increasing temperatures.

  8. Have employees take turns on tasks like digging holes and alternate work with breaks in the shade.

  9. Expect and allow for employees to slow their pace during hotter days.

  10. If you have work uniforms, select lightweight, loose-fitting fabric with light colors.

  11. Provide employees with or encourage them to wear wide-brimmed hats or hats with neck coverings.

  12. Urge your employees to wear sunscreen and sunglasses.

  13. Suggest employees use a wet or icy bandana or rag to cool their neck and face.

  14. Train employees on heat safety, recognizing heat illness, and first aid tactics.

  15. Encourage open communication. If a worker experiences heat-related stress or symptoms, they should feel comfortable reporting it.

 

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.

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