Take safety precautions with rising temperatures
Kelly Murphy, Founder and Creative Curator, Events on the Loose, Deerfield Beach, Florida, saw it with her own eyes. Perhaps the extreme heat catches its victims off guard. Or, they may simply take the dangers of working in stressful heat conditions for granted. Either way, the results can be potentially dangerous and even deadly.
“I’ve had a few experiences with people ignoring warnings,” Murphy says. “Clients and team members who come from northern or midwestern areas don’t realize our proximity to the equator and try to push it away to end up in the ER.”
As summer approaches, outdoor activities multiply and, with them, the challenges of oppressive heat.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report (MMWR), from 2004 to 2018, an annual average of 702 heat-related deaths – 415 with heat as the underlying cause and 287 as contributing factor – occurred in the United States
Heat stress can lead to heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or rashes. The heat can also increase the risk of injury to workers, as it can lead to sweaty hands, foggy safety glasses and dizziness. Burns can also occur due to accidental contact with hot surfaces or steam, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
“When we have had a situation of potential heat exhaustion, we immediately put the individual in the shade and have them lie down, if possible,” says Murphy. “You try to regulate body temperature with fans and ice packs, if available, on the neck and under the arms and on the legs or put them in the air conditioning. If in doubt, call 911 as they are much better equipped to handle these situations.
NIOSH recommends that employers reduce heat stress in the workplace by implementing engineering controls and work practices. Some of these recommendations include training supervisors and workers on heat stress and implementing a buddy system where workers observe each other for signs of heat intolerance.
NIOSH also recommends training workers before beginning high-temperature outdoor work. The agency suggests that employers provide all workers and supervisors with a heat stress training program on the following:
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and administering first aid.
- The causes of heat-related illnesses and procedures that will minimize the risk, such as drinking enough water and monitoring the color and amount of urine.
- Proper care and use of protective clothing and equipment against heat and additional heat load caused by exertion, personal protective clothing and equipment.
- Effects of drugs, alcohol, obesity, etc. on occupational heat stress tolerance.
- The importance of heat acclimatization.
Murphy says his store can have as few as four and as many as 30 employees on a job site. This includes delivery and setup, event management, and production. His company provides what’s in tents for weddings as well as social and corporate events.
Murphy works with many food festivals and building sponsor activations, including a variety of blackout walls to divide or hide unsightly areas, the placement of remote kitchens, stylish living rooms and other guest seating.
Murphy says some of the biggest hot weather concerns are dehydration and heatstroke. It can happen in Florida any time of the year, she says.
“But, as we move into the summer months, that’s even more true,” Murphy says. “We emphasize the importance of drinking water throughout the day and replenishing your electrolytes. We also recommend wearing a shade hat, sunglasses, sunscreen or sun sleeves if necessary for lighter skinned team members.
Murphy says the company’s uniform shirts also wick away moisture.
“In addition to heat stroke, we have to be careful of sun poisoning, which can be very dangerous and uncomfortable,” Murphy says. “Drivers are encouraged to bring coolers with ice and water in their trucks, especially when we’re on a site for over an hour. Then they stock up on extra snacks, like fruit, vegetables and nuts.
Murphy says multi-day event teams receive refreshments and healthy meals. She says fruits and vegetables are important and adds that they will bring a pop up shade tent if needed if there is none on site.
His company runs many outdoor events on a beach or poolside and well beyond the standard October-May season. She says she even reminds the company’s central team of the necessary heat precautions and that’s the first part of the store’s orientation when temporary workers are used.
“Also, working and walking on beach sand will tire your legs more quickly, and that, combined with the heat and humidity, can create problems for even the healthiest,” Murphy says. “We share a sheet on thermal safety because even the most experienced can still suffer the consequences. There is a reminder for each team member to be aware of signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke and to keep an eye out for other team members for these signs as well.
The humidity and the sun create a double whammy, she says.
“The stress of time pressures and the adrenaline rush can cause people in our industry to be unaware of what their body is telling them,” Murphy says. “Listen to your body. Take shade breaks as needed and replenish water and electrolytes.