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Tips to reduce workplace injuries during the summer

While the summer months are typically the time of year when West Virginians go outside to enjoy the weather, there are some individuals who might not enjoy the hot weather. Some work industries, though, require employees to spend long hours in the sun and heat, making it unpleasant, exhausting, and even detrimental to the health to these workers. Because of that, it is important that employers and employees understand ways to reduce or prevent workplace injuries caused by the summer heat and weather.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in order to protect employees from heat illness, they should focus on three things: water, rest, and shade. They also recommend taking six steps to improve safety during the summer time for workers in industries such as construction and agriculture.

First, employers, as well as employees, should be conscious of any weather service alerts for the heat index. This measures more than just the air temperature, also factoring in humidity. Humidity can make the outside temperature feel much hotter to the human body. Therefore, if the heat index is high, an employer should take certain precautions.

Second, employers should provide adequate amounts of water for employees, and it should be in easily accessible locations if the heat index is below 91 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also important to ensure that medical services or aid can be reached or administered within three to four minutes at a work site. Additionally, employers should keep medical supplies on their work site. Third, if the heat index is expected to be between 91 and 103 degrees Fahrenheit, workers should be informed, reminded to keep water on them, drink roughly four cups of water per hour, and go into the shade if they experience weakness or a headache.

Fourth, employees should be reminded to wear sunscreen, hats, and light, breathable clothing. An employer should make shaded areas available if employees are expected to work in direct sun. Workers should take regular rests in the shade or in air-conditioned rooms. Fifth, new employees should be acclimated to the heat, and employers should adjust their workload accordingly. Physically demanding work should occur in the beginning of the day or later in the evening. Lastly, a buddy system should be implemented in case heat-related symptoms set in.

Heat illness could result in a work injury or work illness. Because of that, employers and employees should be aware of ways to reduce the risk. If an employee does suffer from heat illness, though, it might be possible to recover workers’ compensation. This could help cover expenses related to lost wages and medical bills.

Source: The Houston Chronicle, “How to Prevent Summer Workplace Injuries,” Elle Smith, May 8, 2016

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