Individual susceptibility to heat-related illness can vary widely between workers. Workers become gradually acclimatized when exposed to hot conditions for several weeks. Physical changes in blood vessels and in sweating occur to dissipate heat more effectively. When the heat index is high, special precautions are needed to protect un-acclimatized workers while they adjust, particularly on the first few days of the job.
KLC Senior Loss Control Consultant Greg Partin notes that, "New employees or employees returning from vacation are often just assigned to their jobs without being acclimated (or re-acclimated) to the heat exposure. This is usually a process that takes about 5 days, with continually increasing exposure."
The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides resources on how to acclimate employees to the heat. Its long-running campaign, WATER. REST. SHADE. has been very effective in helping to educate employers and employees on heat-related work issues. You can reference, share and download these materials for free.
With the onset of COVID-19, many outdoor workers are challenged with staying safe from heat while also staying safe from the spread of coronavirus. KLC Personnel Services Attorney Courtney Risk-Straw recommends reading this article from the American Association of Occupational and Environmental Medicine which addresses COVID precautions during the heat.
Employee training and review on safety are a must for all employees, especially during the unique challenges of this summer's heat.
With questions about safety issues, contact your KLC Insurance Services Loss Control contact, and contact KLC's Municipal Law and Personnel Services team with questions about general employee issues.