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Hot Weather Risks

Tow Industry Week 2022

With an extreme heat wave covering a large portion of the U.S. this week, now is a good time to address environmental exposure and OSHA compliance. As part of your workplace safety program, it is your duty to provide your employees with an environment free from recognized hazards.

As employers you must make sure your team has appropriate schedules to reduce exposure times to extreme weather (hot or cold), as well as someplace to seek shelter and warm up or cool down as necessary. Proper clothing also plays a huge roll in worker safety. Keep in mind you may be required to provide some clothing at no cost to your employees as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE).

The first step in providing a safe work environment is to conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA). This can be as simple as a single page document that identifies the potential hazards associated with any given task and lists the required steps to reduce risk while performing this task. A JHA for a towing operator would include atmospheric environmental exposure concerns such as UV (sunlight) exposure, rain, snow, ice, outside air temperature and inhalation hazards such as blowing dust and smoke. It would also include traffic and other exposure concerns.

Once you have identified the types of environmental exposure your employees face, your next step is to determine the best ways to reduce or eliminate their exposure while still allowing them to get the job done. This may include requiring gloves, safety footwear and appropriate layers of clothing to act as insulation. Remember, even in the heat of summer, extra layers or long sleeve clothing may be the most appropriate means of providing environmental protection.

During the most extreme temperatures you may also need to schedule extra personnel on-scene to allow for water and cool down breaks. Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very real possibilities, and you must take precautions to protect yourself. These conditions occur when the body loses the ability to regulate internal temperature and can happen even in relatively mild conditions, especially if you are in a new area and have not yet adjusted to the climate. Our age, physical condition, and activity level can also play into how an individual may be affected by heat illnesses.

Heat stroke, for example, can occur when the human body reaches an internal temperature of just 104°F, whereas hypothermia occurs when the body’s core temperature drops below 95°F. The human body can be quite temperature sensitive given that the normal body temperature range is 97-99°F.

Prevention is a simple as taking frequent breaks from strenuous activities in the heat, drinking plenty of water and monitoring yourself for the first signs of a heat related illness.

What all this means to you as an employer is simple. Employee health is a paramount concern and your company’s policies, training and daily expectations must reflect that.

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