Home Cleaning & Maintenance Worker Safety Steps & the Summer Heat

Worker Safety Steps & the Summer Heat


VISTA, CALIF.—A little-reported fact is that heat wave frequencies in the United States are increasing. In the 1960s, we averaged about two major heat waves per year. Today, we are experiencing more than six.

Further, these heat waves are lasting longer. In the 1960s, heat waves lasted about 22 days. Now, they average 72 days.

And one more heat stat. The number of people in emergency rooms due to heat exposure has increased from 151 out of 100,000 emergency room visits a few years ago to more than 180 today.

So, what steps should employers take to protect workers from extreme heat if staff members work outdoors regularly? Among the steps are the following:

Create Heat Parameters. Designate a person responsible for monitoring temperatures when staffers work outside. If temperatures reach a certain level, outdoor work must stop to prevent heat illness.

Acclimate workers. Workers are at the greatest risk for heat illnesses if they have not acclimatized to extreme heat. Allow for acclimation. It can take as long as two weeks.

Educate workers. Workers should recognize symptoms of heat stress, such as muscle cramps, unusually heavy sweating, dizziness, headaches, and heat strokes. Heat strokes are serious and may cause confusion, disorientation, and slurred speech.

Modify work schedules. In the Southwest, outdoor workers often begin their day at 6 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. Modifying work schedules may be necessary wherever there are heatwaves.

Provide support. Always provide shade structures, water stations, and cooling stations.

Concerns about PPE. While outdoor workers should always wear necessary PPE gear, PPE can increase the dangers of extreme heat. Along with providing cooling stations, cooling vests can limit these dangers.

“Besides taking precautions for those working outside during heat waves, we must also use water responsibly and efficiently indoors,” says Klaus Reichardt, CEO and president of Waterless Co., Inc., marketers of no-water urinals. “Even small increases in temperatures can impact water supplies, trigger water shortages, drought conditions, and severe fires, as we witnessed last summer.”