Over the past year, most of the talk about workplace safety tended to revolve around COVID-19. But while preventing the spread of this respiratory disease is crucial, it’s not the only thing you need to think about when ensuring the safety of your workers.
According to data from the CDC, the average annual number of workplace injuries in the U.S. falls at around 2.5 million. That’s a huge amount of lost productivity! Moreover, the number is even more worrying considering that overexertion is one of the top three contributors to work-related injuries.
So, as we move into the summer months, it’s not a bad idea to think about how the weather might be preventing your employees from feeling (and performing) their best. Here’s everything you should know about safety precautions in the workplace during the summer heat.
The Effects of Heat on Employee Health & Productivity
Most people only think about summer heat as an unwelcome annoyance. However, it’s important to remember that spending prolonged periods in extremely high temperatures comes with several risks.
Having a heat stroke is the worst thing that can happen. Not only is this a condition that can result in permanent damage, but according to the Washington Post, it’s the cause of an average of 702 deaths per year.
And even “just” a case of heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, or heat rash can put a damper on your business plans. Any of these can take days or weeks to heal. And that automatically means having to make do without employees on whom your company depends.
Now, if you’re operating from an office, you might think that it’s no big deal and that most of these things don’t affect you.
But here’s the thing. Temperatures don’t have to go to extreme heights to harm your professional success. According to scientific research, productivity can decrease as much as 4% per degree above 80°F.
What You Can Do to Beat the Heat
When you’re aware of the possible detrimental effects of the summer heat on your employees, you’ll want to do everything in your power to protect them. Unfortunately, however, it’s not as simple as instructing them to wear sunscreen and cranking the AC. In fact, the latter has just as many side effects as not controlling indoor temperatures at all.
So what is it that you can do?
For one, you can learn how to recognize the signs of heat stress. Muscle spasms, headaches, dizziness, nausea, or the lack of sweat are all surefire signs that it’s time for you (or your employee) to head to safety.
If the symptoms are persistent or indicative of a possible heatstroke, remember that the best possible thing you can do is seek immediate medical help. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Secondly, if your employees have to spend a lot of time outdoors, you can make adjustments that will help them stay safe.
For example, you can:
- Choose lightweight uniform fabrics.
- Provide them with fresh beverages (or an eco-friendly water bottle) so that they can stay hydrated.
- Make schedule adjustments so that they’re not in direct sunlight in the worst heat.
- Encourage them to take plenty of breaks when working in unforgiving conditions.
Last but not least, recognize the positive effect your company culture can have on preventing heat-related disorders.
Something as simple as reminding your team to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water during the summer heat won’t just remind your employees to keep themselves safe. More importantly, it will instill in them the knowledge that their safety and wellbeing are important to the organization.
And that will, inevitably, result in a much more positive, engaged relationship with their work.
Some Final Thoughts
Heat stress is no joke. Fortunately, however, it’s quite easy to prevent.
So, this summer, do your best to remind your employees that workplace safety isn’t just about hard hats and cybersecurity. It’s also about the little things. That includes dressing for the weather, wearing sunscreen, drinking plenty of water, and taking a break when they need one.
Sarah Kaminski is a freelance writer and social media marketer. She works with a number of small businesses to build their brands through more engaging marketing and content.