Ah, summer. The time for beaches, barbecues, and blasting the air conditioner after the weather app tells you that it’s going to 110° F outside.
But as we all know, summer isn’t all fun in the sun. Excessive heat, natural disasters, and other major safety concerns unique to this season often rear their ugly heads on our job sites. Below, we have outlined four of the biggest summer threats to safety and productivity, as well as techniques for how you and your workforce can beat the proverbial heat.
Say Hello to Hurricane Season
Despite the official ‘hurricane season’ lasting from now until November, hurricanes can strike at any time. With that being said, 2021 provided one of the most destructive seasons in recent memory. And in 2022, the NOAA is predicting a 70% chance of an above-normal season. Therefore, all employers in high-risk areas for hurricanes should have a comprehensive evacuation plan at the ready at all times.
Hurricanes are a considerable concern for auto dealerships and job sites with underdeveloped physical property. However, without much to do to fight a hurricane or any other natural disaster head-on, the best thing that dealerships and worksite managers can do is stay one step ahead of the next big one.
- Paying attention to reports of hurricanes in the local area
- Backing up digital copies of important documents such as sales paperwork, contracts, agreements, tax returns, titles, and legal forms.
- Securing sensitive data and information in safe locations
- Making a list of all items to take with you in the event of a disaster
- Creating an communicating an emergency evacuation plan with employees and workers
Track the Heat
Anyone who has worked outside in the middle of the day during the hottest months of the year will tell you that heat-related exhaustion and illness are critical concerns. OSHA also recognizes the severity of the threat and has developed hazard mitigation requirements related to working in intense heat.
First thing’s first: you must be aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. The latter being a serious medical emergency.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- excessive sweating
- cool and clammy skin
- rapid and weak pulse
- muscle cramps
Symptoms of heatstroke include:
- throbbing headache
- lack of sweat
- body temperature above 103º F
- hot and dry skin
- rapid and strong pulse
- possible loss of consciousness
Heat illness prevention requires all team members to understand and adequately acclimate themselves to the risks of operating in dangerously hot environments. Those working in the heat should also familiarize themselves with the National Weather Service Heat Index, which measures heat-related workforce risk.
The higher the risk on the NWS Heat Index, the more protective measures employers should take. Including:
- more time for acclimation
- additional safety briefs
- additional water sources
- hydrating snacks and drinks (e.g. popsicles, sports drinks, fruit)
- periodic hydration reminders
- additional shade (e.g. with tents)
- faster job rotation
- mandatory sunscreen applications
- more frequent breaks
- cooling equipment and clothing (e.g. hard hat cooling inserts and evaporative cooling vests)
- the use of large fans
- creation of a heat illness prevention team responsible for reporting, monitoring, and manage response protocols
Where There’s Smoke…
And speaking of heat, we have all been unfortunately reminded in the past few years just how destructive wildfires can become after they grow out of control. In 2020 alone, over 58,000 wildfires burned over 10 million acres in the United States. Similar to hurricane readiness, all employers and worksites should implement evacuation plans, marked exits, and a predetermined chain of command in the event of an unexpected wildfire.
More than the threat the fires pose themselves, smoke and air pollution are often the main contributing factor to workplace injury and illness. OSHA requires worksites to provide respiratory protection programs for their employees.
To protect against wildfire smoke, make sure the respirators you provide to your workforce:
- have an N95 rating
- are approved for use by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
If you see employees using surgical masks or using homemade masks or scarves, act immediately to get them the PPE they need to meet NIOSH requirements.
To identify if your worksite is operating in an area at high risk for wildfires, the Environmental Protection Agency has developed an online resource called AirNow, which tracks up-to-date and forecasted air quality information by ZIP code.
The Air Quality Index on AirNow measures from 0 to 500. Depending on just how high the AQI goes dictates what an employer needs to do to meet compliance obligations to protect the workforce. An AQI of 101 to 150 may have adverse health effects on sensitive groups of people. If the AQI gets to 151 or above, the air is deemed unhealthy with a more widespread impact on the general public.
Make Sure Young Workers are Properly Trained
School’s out, which means that a lot of workers under the age of 24 are looking for summer jobs. The young set makes up roughly 12% of the total workforce but accounts for a larger percentage of total workplace injuries. For example, workers between the ages of 15 and 19 are 1.25 times more likely to end up being treated in emergency departments than their counterparts over the age of 25.
Younger employees typically possess a much different mindset than their older co-workers. Those under the age of 25 usually have limited prior work experience, lack safety training, and cannot understand the consequences associated with high-risk job sites.
Employee buy-in may be more challenging to achieve for those who aren’t fully acclimated to the job site. Engagement starts with finding common ground, and understanding the unique positions that more inexperienced employees find themselves in.
Mobile technology is an effective tool in bridging this gap. People under the age of 24 are digital natives and have developed an understanding of mobile technology from a very young age. Introduce young workers to apps specifically designed for easy reporting and training in the field.
Consider including your safety data sheets (SDSs) in a mobile application that’s easily accessible 24/7 from a mobile phone or tablet. Couple this with preapproved curriculums and lectures targeting the development of core competencies and safety compliance.
Remember, young people who are just starting out are often more hesitant to ask for help when they need it. Putting the right tools in their hands during their training period can help them feel more empowered and informed moving forward, reducing incident rates and maintaining a healthier, more communicative workforce.
Stay Cool with KPA
KPA’s got the training, tools, and talent to keep you and your employees protected all summer long. While none of us can predict precisely the hazards we may face during this season, you can rest easier knowing that with KPA, comprehensive and preventative resources are available to you at any time.