Early this week, a lightning storm caused a power outage in our area just as we were getting ready to eat dinner. We lit the candles, made a game of it with the kids, and tried to keep our refrigerator closed as much as possible. We endured a restless, sticky night without AC or fans and by morning, the novelty had worn off. We were just wishing hard for a hot cup of coffee and some refreshing air to flow through the vents. Our kids gave a big “Our lights can work!” celebration when we heard the devices ding and the HVAC system kick on around 8:15 AM.
It was a muggy morning from the nights’ storm and the temperatures were climbing. As I drove through my neighborhood shortly after, I was rerouted by the crew that had likely just fixed our power lines. They were working on the next downed line. They didn’t have the luxury of waiting for cooler temps. There were other families like ours, hoping the power would come back on before they were forced to make a random lunch of burgers, biscuits, and açaí bowls from their thawing freezers. I felt for them and it also made me hope the power company was taking its responsibility to protect them seriously.
Record-breaking heat waves are hitting Texas and beyond and there is just so much outdoor work that has to happen anyway. Unfortunately, heat-related illnesses are dangerous to all of us. It can land even the youngest and strongest members of that crew in the hospital with very little warning. If your company requires workers to be outdoors, you are responsible for providing adequate protections and preventing the conditions that cause heat stroke rather than only thinking about worker safety after something goes wrong.
As we head into the hottest months of summer, it’s a good time to talk about workplace safety. While your workers’ health is a good enough reason to take extra measures, addressing safety risks can also prevent fines and lawsuits.
Worker Safety in Extreme Heat
Protecting workers—especially those who spend extended time outdoors—requires a little extra forethought and attention. Staying compliant with OSHA’s guidelines on Occupational Heat Exposure prevents workers from getting preventable heat related illnesses. And of course that comes with a major bonus: keeping your workers from missing work and you from getting fined. Ensure worker safety so neither you nor your employees end up paying the price.
Proactive measures include getting all of your shade and hydration stations set up in the relative cool of the morning and instituting mandatory breaks with plenty of hydration. Stick to those breaks regardless of your schedule.
An on-site manager should be trained to monitor the heat index as well as the associated risks and to watch for and recognize symptoms of heat exhaustion. According to the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), “Persons suffering from heat exhaustion might have cool, moist skin; sweat heavily; or complain of headache, nausea or lightheadedness.”
I suspect the power company was getting a lot of calls and feeling the pressure of their consumers who’d endured a long night without power. Still, watching out for their workers’ safety has to be top priority. It’s not just about staying compliant with the letter of the law, but about truly doing right by the workers. Even if you can push them a little further to get the job done faster, it’s worth going above and beyond to provide a safe environment.
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