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Practice Summertime Safety

June 13, 2011
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Kimberly Schwartz

For many people, it’s summertime and the living is easy. The kids are getting out of school, the dads are firing up the grills, and the moms are getting pedicures.

But for contractors, it’s summertime and the living is busy. The weather is heating up, the no-cool calls are pouring in, and the long hours are beginning.

And, because it’s summer, those long hours can often be required in sweltering conditions. So during this time of year, it’s especially important to make sure every employee is educated on the hazards of working in the sun and heat.



COMMON SENSE IN THE SUN

It seems like common sense that, if you’re going to be working out in the sun, you need to drink lots of water and wear sunscreen. But common sense is not always so common. Especially if you have a few young or super-macho technicians who think they’re invincible.

Staying hydrated is key to staying safe in the sun. When you get busy and caught up in your work, you can forget to keep drinking, and that leads to risks of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Making water easily available can help, as well as simple reminders to staff about the need to stay hydrated. I recently read that a pint of water an hour is a good rule of thumb to follow. And it’s also important to recognize that you need to drink before you feel thirsty.

But while everyone generally realizes that they need to drink water, getting them to wear sunscreen might not be so simple. Honestly, it took me years of painful sunburns before I finally heeded my mother’s advice and started wearing sunscreen.

You can try different approaches to convince your crew to wear sunscreen. For instance, try scaring them with statistics about how common skin cancer is. (It really is the most common type of cancer in the United States.) Or you can try appealing to their vanity by telling them how wrinkly and old they’ll look in a couple years if they don’t use sunscreen. (Admittedly, this may not be effective with the macho types.)

If you come up with a sure-fire, no-fail approach that convinces even the most macho of your techs to wear sunscreen every day, please email and let me know what it is. (I’d like to try it out on my husband.)

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying, along with the rest of you, to encourage good health and common sense in the sun.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sometimes the sun may not be high in the sky, but that doesn’t mean the heat has gone away. It’s important to pay attention to how your body feels in the heat. In addition to skin-related risks, heat-related disorders are a very real threat to workers in the summer. These disorders include heat cramps, heat exhaustion (which involves dehydration) and heat stroke.

OSHA provides a lot of great information about these heat-related dangers and their warning signs on its website, www.osha.gov. According to OSHA, these are the signs that someone’s in trouble:

• Headache, dizziness, or fainting;

• Weakness and wet skin;

• Irritability or confusion;

• Thirst, nausea, or vomiting.

Moving to the shade and taking a water break should be the first step when any of these symptoms are noticed. It’s a good idea to train employees to be on the lookout for these warning signs and to provide them with all the resources they need to respond in an emergency.

Here’s to being smart this summer, and keeping everyone safe, happy, and hydrated.

Publication date: 06/13/2011
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