Blazing hot: A summer guide to preparing for heat, wildfires
Develop a plan of action to protect workers from illness and injury.
posted June 21, 2021
Today is the first day of summer, and temperatures are already expected to spike into the 90s and 100s in many parts of the state this week. Wildfires are cropping up as well, as firefighters prepare for another busy fire season.
There are many ways to get ready for the warmer weather ahead. Here is a guide to keeping workers cool and preventing summer-related injuries and illness.
Protect workers from heat stress.
- Schedule frequent breaks in shaded areas.
- Encourage workers working in the heat to drink at least a cup of water every 15-20 minutes.
- If possible, consider changing employees' schedules, so they work during cooler times of the day.
- Develop a plan for inexperienced workers to gradually increase exposure to the heat. Start with 20 percent exposure on the first day and increase by 20 percent each day.
- Use a buddy system to monitor workers for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- Clothing should be breathable, light-colored, and loose. Be aware that personal protective equipment (PPE) may increase the risk of heat stress.
Hydration is your body's best defense.
Water makes up about 60% of our body weight. Among other things, it oils your muscles and joints, helps you stay alert, and helps regulate body temperature.
Educate workers and supervisors on the importance of hydration. Provide clean, cool water, and consider providing water bottles, or even adding a cooling room with portable fogger fans.
Protect your skin. It may save your life.
More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Oregon's cloudy skies don't protect us, our state has one of the highest incidence rates for skin cancer.
To prevent skin damage and lower your risk for skin cancer, consider the following:
• Apply sunscreen every two hours. Dermatologists recommend an SPF of 30 to 50. Don't forget your lips!
• Wear protective clothing and eyewear.
• Identify early warning signs by practicing self-examination and by getting regular screenings.
Learn the best ways to protect workers from the sun with our interactive game.
Don't put off wildfire prep.
In the past few years, Oregon's wildfire seasons have lasted longer and have devastated parts of the state. Even if your business isn't in the direct path of a wildfire, hazardous smoke could still affect workers.
Here's how you can be better prepared for the wildfire season:
Before the wildfire:
• Expand your emergency response plans to include emergency evacuation and wildfire smoke events.
• Designate essential personnel and assign duties.
• Stock up on supplies, including water, food, filtering masks, and communication devices.
During a wildfire:
• Reduce smoke exposure by shutting down air intakes, recirculating air, changing filters on HVAC units, and keeping windows and doors closed.
• Consider modifying schedules for outdoor workers, or ceasing work altogether if the air quality or visibility is hazardous.
• Monitor air quality with Oregon DEQ's Air Quality Index. Download the mobile version in the App Store by searching for OregonAir.
• Communicate frequently with employees and customers.
• Monitor local news and government sources to alert you to changing conditions.
After a wildfire:
• Discuss lessons you learned during the event.
• Modify your emergency plans if needed.
• Restock supplies that were used during the fire.