I do not have to tell you we are experiencing a heatwave—and a long one.
You wake up daily to a notification on your phone telling you how hot it will be. Articles pop up every other day about record-breaking temperatures across the country and the world. Perhaps you have heard that meteorologists are reporting that ocean temperatures have risen to their highest point in recorded history. It feels like Canada has been on fire all summer.
You don’t need anyone to tell you it is hot because you feel it every day. And your work crews feel it, too. Heat illness is front of mind for every safety and risk management professional during a heat wave. It is an ever-present hazard you must prepare for. Too often, though, we get sidetracked by the daily requirements of our positions, and we push the need for heat illness training off.
We may not have that luxury anymore.
Tackle Heat Illness With A Plan
Deaths related to extreme heat are on the rise, according to statistics gathered by the National Center for Health Statistics. Heat-related deaths increased each year from 2019 to 2022. Last year, 1,700 heat-illness deaths were reported, almost 700 more than the highest annual rate from 2000 to 2018 (1,012 deaths in 2018).
Your people need to be aware of the danger of working in the heat. Too often, work crews prioritize the task over their health and well-being. They will downplay the risk, thinking they won’t be working in the heat for very long or that they will recognize the signs of heat illness well before it can become an issue.
More than awareness of the hazard is required. Tackling heat requires a plan. Workers need to not only be trained to recognize the symptoms of heat illness but be able to treat it. Supervisors must provide their personnel with the tools to combat it, including shade and safe drinking water. You may need to shift work projects to cooler periods of the day to limit worker heat exposure.
Heat Illness Doesn’t Have To Be Boring
One of the main issues with most heat illness training is that they are often long, boring, and repetitive. This is why some supervisors and risk managers will postpone the training. They reason that the training will mostly stay the same, and their people already know what they need to keep safe in extreme heat.
Our response is, “It doesn’t have to be boring!” We make a particular effort in our training to make it a fun and interactive experience for our trainees. We will use props and skits to get our points across. We take our students through scenarios and have them conduct emergency rescues and contests for quickly assembling a shade structure. Workers pay closer attention and better retain the training when the instruction is engaging.
It also doesn’t need to be long. The Cal/OSHA Heat Illness Standard 3395 has no training time requirement. Also, the standard is changing. Cal/OSHA is introducing new regulations covering interior extreme heat work environments.
It has never been more critical to get your heat illness training completed. Are your crews prepared to work in endless heat? Have you implemented a heat illness policy to protect them?
Watch our video above as Matt and I go over how you can best protect your workers from extreme heat.