Heat-related illness is a serious, sometimes deadly threat to those who work outdoors or perform physical labor, especially during the scorching Texas summer. In addition to the threat it poses for workers, heat can lead to increased absenteeism and higher health care costs for businesses. As the days grow warmer, employers should prepare a plan to help workers acclimate to the rising temperature and stay safe on the job.
In many parts of Texas, temperatures routinely reach triple digits during June, July and August. Acclimatization is one of the most important steps employers can take to protect the health and safety of their workers. New hires and employees unaccustomed to working in the heat are especially at risk, but all workers should be given time to adjust to hotter conditions. Acclimatization benefits the body in numerous ways, including increased sweating efficiency, stabilization of circulation, increased blood flow, and enabling individuals to work with a lower core temperature and heart rate. The process can take up to three weeks, but the first five days are the most critical.
As temperatures rise, employers should create an acclimatization schedule. For new workers, schedule no more than 20% exposure on the first day, then increase that exposure by 20% per day. Experienced workers should have no more than 50% exposure on day one, with their exposure increasing by 10% each day over the next five days.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 60 heat-related deaths among U.S. workers in 2018 (PDF), and thousands of heat-related illnesses and injuries are reported each year. Nearly all of the fatalities occurred during the summer months, and a quarter of all heat-related illnesses occurred in transportation or industries involved in moving materials.
Training is an essential part of protecting workers. If you have employees who work outdoors or in hot indoor environments, provide them with these safety tips.
By training your employees and allowing them to acclimate to the heat, you’ll help protect them from the risks associated with summertime work in Texas. Find more information on keeping workers safe on the job on our Safety Best Practices page.