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Training employees on heat illness and general safety practices can make all the difference when it comes to protecting them from the heat. Your drivers can’t stay in the air conditioning all day, but there are steps you can take to keep them safe.

Acclimatize Workers

The human body is good at adapting to hot temperatures over time. This process is known as acclimatization, and it allows the body to modify its own functions to better cope with heat.

Acclimatization has the following benefits:

  • Enhanced cardiovascular fitness
  • Enhanced sweating
  • Lower salt content in sweat

While this process takes time, acclimatized employees will be able to work in hotter conditions for longer periods of time than those who are not acclimatized. According to OSHA, under normal circumstances, adjustment to heat usually takes five to seven days; however, it can also take up to several weeks for the body to fully adjust.

Acclimatization should be done gradually, especially if a worker has never worked in a hot environment. Consider reducing the workload of new workers, giving them just 20% of a normal workload on the first day of acclimatization. You can increase this workload by 10% each day moving forward.

Supervise Workers

In situations where a heat illness could occur, workers should not be allowed to perform job duties unsupervised. Managers should monitor workers closely or require work to be done in pairs or groups.

For added safety, first aid should be readily available and all workers should be trained in applicable emergency procedures.

Manage Work and Rest Cycles

Employers or shift managers will need to oversee schedules in such a way that workers are given adequate time to cool down. Those experiencing a heat illness aren’t always aware they are in danger, and rest periods are crucial to reducing the risk.

The following are some scheduling tips to consider:

  • Schedule the most difficult or physically taxing jobs for the coolest part of the day.
  • Utilize additional workers or rotate job tasks to reduce the amount of time employees are exposed to heat.
  • Allow employees to work more slowly during the hottest periods of the day.
  • Relocate work away from direct sunlight or radiant heat whenever possible.
  • Schedule routine maintenance or tasks during cooler seasons. For indoor work, these routine tasks should be completed when hot operations are shut down.
  • In addition, consider providing employees with cool areas, including shaded or well-ventilated break spots. It should be noted that showering or soaking in cool water can cool the body quickly, and employers should provide these amenities where possible.

Provide Water

Providing cool drinking water is a simple administrative control that can go a long way in safeguarding employees. The human body naturally sweats to cool itself. However, this can result in a significant loss of fluid that must be replenished during the workday.

Require workers to drink water before, during and after work. As a general rule, it’s a good idea for employees to drink about a half a liter of water before beginning work. From there, they should have a glass of water every 20 minutes or so.

Please note that caffeine can cause dehydration, and you should limit workers’ caffeine consumption whenever possible.

Employee Training

Organizations should use the information in their heat illness control plans to train supervisors and workers. Training should include information regarding the following:

  • How heat illnesses develop
  • Heat illness risk factors in your workplace
  • How to prevent heat illnesses
  • Workers’ roles in executing the heat illness control plan
  • Importance of drinking small quantities of water often
  • Acclimatization’s importance, how it is developed and how your worksite procedures address it
  • Reporting signs of heat-related illness to supervisors immediately
  • Procedures to ensure that directions to the worksite can be clearly provided to emergency medical services

Employees and their supervisors should know how to spot signs of heat illness in themselves and their co-workers. This type of education is critical when it comes to providing timely treatment to those who need it.

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