The extreme heat that walloped the entire U.S. last week and parts of the country before that made me think of the people who have to work outside all day, such as the road construction crews repairing highways and bridges, landscapers, forest firefighters, and HVAC technicians. For that last group, some not only have to deal with heat and humidity outside, but often heat and humidity inside the building, too.
Whether one is working outside in extreme heat or is inside of a too-hot building, it can be unsafe. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, “People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. … Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.”
Installing/servicing air conditioning in extreme high temperatures is important work that needs to be done, regardless of the outside temperature. The CDC recognizes the importance of air conditioning in keeping people healthy in high temperatures, saying on its website, “Air conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness and death.”
To prevent dangerous work conditions for you and your employees, make sure that you do what it takes to take care of your techs and make sure they take care of themselves. These are some tips from the CDC for those working outside in the heat:
• Stop all activity and get to a cool environment if you feel faint or weak;
• Drink from two to four cups of water every hour while working. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. [The CDC warns that if your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him how much you should drink while the weather is hot.];
• Avoid alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar;
• Wear and reapply sunscreen as indicated on the package;
• Ask if tasks can be scheduled for earlier or later in the day to avoid midday heat;
• Wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing;
• Spend time in air conditioned buildings during breaks and after work;
• Encourage coworkers to take breaks to cool off and drink water; and
• Seek medical care immediately if you or a coworker has symptoms of heat-related illness.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has an informational sheet that describes various problems caused by hot environments; explains what heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash are; describes what to do if a worker shows signs of each of these health problems; and lists other related information that could be useful on the job as well.
Perhaps your business has come up with its own ways to make sure workers don’t suffer from the heat, such as supplying techs with several bottles of water, a cooler, and freezer packs at the beginning of each day. Do you have other intuitive ideas? Please share.