When you have a variety of workers moving about in an indoor warehouse environment, operating all manner of machinery and physically exerting themselves, you’re already setting the table for potential heat safety concerns.
Then Mother Nature adds a blast of scorching humidity called Summer. An extra layer of danger to your team? You bet. Unfortunately, far too many companies go about their business without giving special consideration to how a combination of factors can combine to create a much higher risk of heat-related illness.
That’s not just a safety issue – in the eyes of OSHA, if an employer isn’t providing a protective environment from extreme heat, it could be breaking the law. Which may mean thousands upon thousands of dollars in fines from the agency.
How do you help minimize the risk of your workers experiencing heat-related illnesses and a painful fine from OSHA at the same time? Keep these invaluable tips in mind with the input of our safety consultants at SOS Technologies so you can better incorporate heat safety into every corner of your warehouse.
Step 1: Take Inventory – Who Is New To The Job?
Why would we want to know who is newer to your company? When a relatively new hire steps into your warehouse, they’re not used to your particular environment. Sure, they can view a job description on paper, but until they’ve actually become accustomed to how their role physically feels in your warehouse under high-temperature conditions, they may not be as used to the possible dangers associated with heat as other workers who have known what the warehouse environment can do (which is not to say that those workers shouldn’t be a concern as well).
Group the newer hires together for safety training sessions as they may not be as familiar with the existing conditions. Then proceed to provide the same training to your veteran workers – even if they’ve received it before, a “refresher” course will not hurt one bit.
Step 2: Examine The Warehouse’s Ventilation Throughout
In a large space, it’s all too easy to increase the ventilation in general, but don’t stop there. Certain areas may gather a higher volume of heat than others, creating a dangerous “hot spot” for workers who operate in those areas regularly. Cooling fans and reflective shields that redirect heat are helpful in this regard.
Step 3: Warehouse Wear Makes A Big Difference
Of course your workers need protective gear for certain conditions to preserve their safety. However, it’s important that this clothing doesn’t invite heat-related illness at the same time. Investigate your options in apparel so that your workers are moving about in thermally conditioned clothing rather than heavy, non-breathable wear that elevates the risk of overheating quickly. Clothing that incorporates better air flow while offering ample protection should be explored.
Step 4: Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Believe it – people forget to drink water all the time and even when they do remember, it’s not consistent throughout the day. You’ve likely heard the popular advice that you should drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water each day, no matter what the conditions are. When we add in the high heat of a warehouse, that golden rule becomes ever-more vital for a person’s safety.
So go beyond merely reminding people with an email or sign telling them to stay hydrated. In your greatest high-risk days, make water readily available near the area where your workers are. Don’t make them have to trek far to get it or it may be “out of sight, out of mind.” If you have to, implement mandatory breaks for water and rest in a cooler area. Getting the job done on a deadline may be important but watching a worker collapse due to lack of hydration – which will subsequently take down your entire team – does you no good. Give them the breaks they need in between and monitor them if necessary to see that they follow through with it. Don’t accept “I’m fine” as an answer.
Step 5: Roll Out A True Heat Safety Program
We’ve talked about who needs to be trained for heat safety purposes, how to dial up the cooler conditions more evenly and outfitting your people properly. Now it’s time to equip them with the know-how on what to do with a program that educates your people on what to do when a co-worker is exhibiting the signs of a heat-related illness. After all, while our previous steps are sure to help minimize the risk of such an unfortunate event, we should always err on the side of full preparedness. The moment we don’t is exactly when the wrong call can be made – and that can be the difference between a saved co-worker and a tragedy.
At SOS Technologies, we provide a full OSHA Safety Audit that covers all areas of risk in your warehouse, including trouble spots for heat-related accidents to occur as well as areas for improvement in your procedures. But we don’t just make recommendations to your environment and wish you well. Our team of safety consultants can provide training on CPR and AED operation to bring both your newest and most senior workers up to speed on what to do when someone collapses in the warehouse unexpectedly, whether that’s due to heat, sudden cardiac arrest, stroke or another mishap.
We’ve also got you covered on a range of first aid supplies so that temporary relief can be provided until emergency medical services arrives on the scene.
To learn more, give SOS a call today at 888.705.6100 so we can get your heat safety preparedness elevated while the temperatures are doing the same. We just might save you a very costly fine from OSHA while we’re at it too.