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Staying safe (and cool) on the jobsite

Summer means many things to us here at Madison: more jobs, more fun and more employees exposed to the sun, heat and humidity. We want to ensure our employees return home safely … without a detour to the hospital due to heat-related illness. As June is National Safety Month, we wanted to remind everyone to follow these six simple tips to keep your crews safe and cool while on the job during these warm summer months.

Drink more water, not caffeine! 

Hydration is key to avoiding heat stress. Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks that can lead to dehydration. Instead, encourage your team to drink small amounts of water often, even when not thirsty. One cup every 15 to 20 minutes should be sufficient. Provide cool drinking water and disposable cups in convenient locations.

Take breaks in the shade

Provide air-conditioned or shaded break areas close to the work area and enforce rest breaks. A temporary shelter can be a trailer, tent, parking garage or under the shade of trees or buildings. Adding fans or misting fans to both break and work areas also is helpful.

Wear light-colored, lightweight clothing

Provide light-colored hard hats with brims that shade the face and encourage workers to wear breathable (cotton), light-colored and loose-fitting clothing. Long sleeves are better than short. Personal cooling apparel also can help, such as cooling vests with pockets for cold packs and either cooling or water-dampened bandanas, towels and other gear.

Adjust schedules

Whenever possible, save the “heavy lifting” for the cooler morning hours. And where possible, set up shade canopies over work areas exposed to direct sunlight. Rotate workers in and out of tasks that are more strenuous, exposed to direct sunlight or require protective gear, so no person is subjected to these conditions for long time periods. Also consider earlier start times or evening and night shifts. These methods are especially helpful for new employees and when temperatures first start to rise; it takes about two weeks for the average person to adjust to heat and humidity.

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses

Wear sunglasses or safety glasses that protect the eyes from harmful UV rays and avoid painful sunburns by using a water-resistant sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher (I recommend higher). Reapply every two hours or more often when sweating.

Training and buddy systems

Regularly train employees on how to recognize the signs of heat stress and prevent as well as treat it. Use the buddy system to ensure co-workers are looking out for each other. Pass out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) wallet-size Heat Stress First Aid Guide for employees to keep on-hand.

And, finally, to help determine when the above tactics are needed, download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool app, which allows anyone to calculate the heat index for a jobsite and the risk level for outdoor workers. And to learn more about staying safe and cool on the jobsite, check out OSHA’s Water. Rest. Shade. (#WaterRestShade) campaign.