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Summer Heat & Humidity Work Hazards

Greg Andress
by Greg Andress on August 11, 2015

 

Worker Hazards

Working in high heat and humidity is hard on the human body. As employers, it’s important to take precautions to make sure that any employees are kept safe. Understanding the effect of heat and humidity is important as a foundation for managing health risks.

In this blog, we will explore some hazards that heat and humidity introduce in the workplace, and offer some ways that you can prevent harm to your employees.

Know What the Hazards Are

The effect of high heat and humidity can cause serious health risks and even death. These health risks include:

  • Heat rash
  • Heat cramps
  • Early heat illness
  • Heat syncope
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat stroke

Some symptoms from the above conditions are nausea, convulsions and cramping, and can even lead to death. It is important to understand the heat can kill.   

Environmental Hazards

The environment is also a hazard that poses serious health risks. It is important to take precautionary measures at new locations your employees will be working in. What are the environmental risks? Some of the hazards you may find are:

  • Fire ants
  • Mosquitoes (West Nile)
  • Hornets
  • Bees
  • Snakes
  • Ticks
  • Poison ivy

Know How to Prevent Hazards from Happening

To prevent work hazards caused by the heat and environment, employers should:

  • Provide cover from the sun. This will help avoid heat stress and other health risks from developing
  • Be careful with new employees working in the heat. They have a higher risk for developing heat stress
  • Provide water at all times to your employees and allow for frequent water breaks
  • Have your employees wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing that is breathable (like cotton). Doing so will help avoid skin exposure to poison ivy and fire ants
  • Inspect work areas for hazards as a proactive measure. If there is a large hornet nest, realize this could cause harm to your employees
  • Be aware of the heat index at all times
  • Educate your employees on the risks of high heat and humidity

Educate Your Employees

As employers, it’s important to understand the effect of heat and humidity, but it is also important that your employees are trained and understand the effects as well. They should know what the symptoms of heat illness are, how to respond to symptoms and how to prevent it. Employers must also make sure their employees are aware of the precautions to avoid illness like:

  • Taking frequent breaks in cool shade
  • Eating smaller meals before working
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar
  • Finding out from a medical provider if their medication and heat do not mix

The Takeaway

Realizing that the heat and the environment are hazards can help you keep your employees safe. This is accomplished by knowing the hazards, taking steps to prevent hazards and educating your employees. Make prevention a priority, and you will see decreased injuries and accidents as a result of the heat and humidity. 

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Greg Andress
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Greg Andress

Greg Andress, Director of Risk Management Services for Frank Winston Crum Insurance, is a 30+ veteran of the insurance industry who has spent more than 20 years in risk management/loss control. With clients in many industries, Greg has developed proactive loss control programs, training materials and technical bulletins; and delivered training for hundreds of clients nationwide to help them understand how they can identify and control their total cost of loss.