Every season brings its own set of conditions and climate – some milder than others, but none without their risks. Summertime, despite its reputation for easy livin', can still bring threatening conditions, especially for workers. What are some of the risks inherent to summer, and how can employers and employees avoid them?
1. The threat: Heat
The most obvious detriment of the summer season are the long, sweltering days. Depending on the region, summer temperatures can climb well over 100 degrees – easily high enough to induce heat stroke, dehydration, rashes, cramps and exhaustion, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. When you factor in heavy clothing, PPE and long hours, the risk of health hazards grows even greater.
The solution: Stay cool and relax
Employers must be aware of the dangers the heat poses and instate a heat stress program to prevent those risks from becoming problems. Accident prevention is simple, but essential: drink lots of water, take short, frequent breaks, seek air conditioning and limit unnecessary movement. OSHA recommends workers drink one liter of water per hour to counteract the effects of heat. Additionally, new workers or those returning from absence should only be given 20 percent of the normal workload so their bodies can reacclimate to the heat.
2. The threat: Stormy weather
Outdoor worksites can also come under the threat of thunderstorms, sometimes with little notice. Severe storms bring lightning, hail, high winds, even tornadoes in some part of the U.S. In the Gulf region, hurricanes are also a problem – although if one is coming, people tend to know in advance and seek shelter or evacuate. Still, thunderstorms and even heavy rain can damage equipment and cause a workplace accident.
The solution: Stay inside
There is no good reason to continue working outside during a thunderstorm, especially if that work entails electricity, a body of water or high points. If one is in the forecast, supervisors should have the foresight to assign alternate activities or tasks their workers can perform that don't require being outside. If a storm springs up out of nowhere, find shelter until it passes.
"Addressing seasonal dangers is an essential part of workplace safety."
3. The threat: Sun exposure
This threat occurs year-round, but is notably higher during the months when the sun is strongest. It's also different from heat, because sun exposure on a relatively mild day can still cause burns and sun poisoning. While not as threatening as heat stroke, which can be fatal, sun poisoning can still cause an individual to feel drowsy and tired – conditions that can be dangerous in a workzone. It should also be noted, chronic sun exposure can ultimately lead to skin damage and cancer, according to WedMD.
The solution: Cover up
Wear long sleeves, hats and sunglasses to keep the sun off the skin. Employers and managers might also want to provide sunblock for their workers – the lotion can prevent UV rays from penetrating deep into the skin and causing bad burns.
Addressing seasonal dangers is an essential part of workplace safety, and employers are responsible for communicating all hazards with their teams. In the summer, that means checking the forecast, training the employees on best safety protocol and making the right judgment call when conditions take a turn for the worse.