I remember how the kids in my high school cross-country running team would eat a whole pack of Starbursts before practice. That way, if they threw up, it would at least taste good. I also figured since my days of summer football practice are behind me, I wouldn’t be sweating so much.
Yet, this summer has been one for the record books. This means there is a higher demand for power, to keep the grid up, and to keep your machinery cool and running. When a machine overheats, it breaks down. When a person overheats? Much worse. We’re already seeing headlines of heat-related illnesses at factories and even daytime construction halts in cities like Miami.
Of course, no one wants to be lectured about how to take care of themselves. And I would usually agree, until OSHA and insurance premiums are on the line – and then it’s an order: keep yourself healthy, keep yourself cool, and make sure your team has what they need to keep themselves upright and conscious during their shifts.
You can’t get a lot of use out of an unconscious employee. Less so if they are KO’d for a few days from heat exposure.
Hot Wet Mess
Bodies sweat. Sometimes it’s gross. But when a breeze hits a sweaty back or soaked shirt, it’s pure relief. Sweating is the only automatic way our body has to cool itself, and evaporation is key to that process.
The you sweat, the more you need to replace that sweat. Water, loads of it, with a bit of Gatorade thrown into the mix (or anything with salts). A dehydrated body is at risk for heat stroke, which is a sure trip to the ER.
If it doesn’t kill you first, heat stroke can cause brain damage – and that’s not a good look for anyone.
Get Smart About It
As the saying goes, it’s always smarter to fight in the shade.
Make sure your team knows the risks of heat and when to know they’re overexposed. Heat exhaustion is more common than you might think, and the only way to get around it is to stay hydrated and rest.
This may mean telling them that drinking four Monster energy drinks isn’t going to cut it.
If your facility can handle it, reduce the workload during the hottest parts of the shift. There’s a reason you don’t see many road crews working out on a highway in July after 3 PM.
When you can’t beat the heat, at least make sure you’re dressed for it. Encourage and provide lightweight and breathable PPE options for your team. Moisture-wicking polyester and nylon materials will do wonders in managing body temperature. Wearing long-sleeved shirts that aren’t made of cotton or wool will go a long way to keeping workers cool.
Also, don’t forget hats and sunglasses – they’ll help shield workers from sun exposure. Since you can technically consider them “safety equipment” it might be a good idea to provide them on behalf of your workers.
As for me, you can find me rolling up to your job site in my truck with the AC on high – I need to squeeze every minute I can out of my 8-hour deodorant.