How to Create a Summer Heat Risk Management Plan
This summer, industries across the United States were forced to change their Outdoor Employment rules to protect employees from extreme weather conditions.
The most important case took place in June of 2021 in Seattle, Washington, where temperatures soared to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The state implemented a series of Emergency Rules for outdoor workers according to a new Risk Management Plan based on The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. The goal of these new rules is to provide increased protection by requiring employers to follow specific safety measures.
According to Claims Journal, when temperatures are at or above 89 degrees, the new rules are combined with existing ones and are mandatory to implement.
- Provide cool water that can be drunk safely.
- Allow and encourage paid cool-down breaks to avoid overheating.
- Train employees on a written outdoor heat exposure program and guidelines.
- Provide care to employees showing signs of heatstroke or illness due to heat.
When temperatures reach 100 degrees or more, employers must:
- Provide a shaded or cool area for employees to cool down.
- Give paid cool-down periods for ten minutes once every two hours.
These rules are an update to the state’s existing Outdoor Heat Exposure rule from 2008 and create a new plan for employers to ensure the safety of employees against extreme heat.
1. How to Build a “Heat Risk Management Plan”
The example we just analyzed shows us the importance of having a Risk Management Plan for specific and unique situations that companies need to address in 2021.
To create your own Heat Risk Management Plan, first, we suggest looking for the main Risk Factors your employees may face. Most heat-related illnesses and deaths are preventable if both employers and employees know what signs to look out for.
One of the most overlooked factors is “heat acclimatization.” In fact, “most outdoor fatalities, 50% to 70%, occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time,” according to OSHA, a branch of the United States Department of Labor.
Other factors to look out for include:
- Level of physical activity.
- Air temperature.
- Humidity and sunlight.
- The proximity of other heat sources.
- Air movement.
- Clothing worn.
- Individual or personal factors like existing medical problems.
No matter what personal risk factors are contributing to heat tolerance for employees, employers need to make sure they know what these risks are to prevent heat-related illness for all workers.
2. Implement your Risk Management Plan for Heat Conditions
Now that you have identified the potential risks for workers, the second step is to make sure employees are aware of these risks and know how to act in these extreme situations of heat. Remember that the most important steps to take when protecting from heat-related illnesses are preventative.
Make sure to include in your Risk management Plan the most common warning signs for heat illnesses:
- Sunburn: Painful, red, warm skin and in severe cases blisters on the skin.
- Heat Cramps: Heavy sweating and muscle pain or spasms.
- Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, cold, pale, clammy skin, fast but weak pulse, nausea or vomiting, cramps, weakness or fatigue, dizzy spells, headache, loss of consciousness.
- Heatstroke: A body temperature of 103 or higher, hot, red, and dry or damp skin, a fast but strong pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, loss of consciousness.
Finally, review your workers’ compensation insurance to make sure all medical bills and salaries are in place to cover employees in case of one of the above situations.