Factory and manufacturing work always carries a risk of heat stress and heat-related illness. Factories are inherently difficult to cool, and the machinery and processes typically generate heat. However, managing heat stress in employees is not only the right thing to do, it is good business. Over-stressed employees experience higher rates of absenteeism, lost time, loss of retention, accidents and equipment damage. These types of losses can result in increased costs for labor, training, health care, and insurance.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), using the heat index is a good place to start a monitoring program. When the ambient heat in the work environment exceeds 91 degrees Fahrenheit (about 33 degrees Celsius), or the heat index (a function of heat and humidity) goes over 80°F, employers need to implement heat precautions.
If planned correctly, basic safeguards are cost-effective and yield results:
- Shorten time between breaks and add a break to each shift if it is warranted.
- If possible, give everyone respite by rotating between tasks and workstations. Cross-training workers in the offseason ensure the facility can rotate workers in and out of high-stress environments with minimal disruption to productivity.
- If appropriate, allow workers to wear lightweight clothing. However, do not allow anyone to impair safety by foregoing mandatory personal protective equipment and proper footwear.
- Provide cooling stations with fans, shade, and water. There should be at least one quart of water per worker readily available at all times.
- Break out the bug juice cart. The bug juice (military and camper slang for sweetly powdered mixes) in your factory should be an electrolyte-replacement drink and be available to workers, at their stations, several times a shift.
- Safety training on how to recognize the signs of heat stress and how to avoid and mitigate heat stress. Make sure first aid stations are well-stocked and the staff is trained on when to summon emergency services.
When the temperature is above 91°F, the body can lose up to two gallons of water a day. Dehydration can be deadly. Not only does it debilitate the body, but it also reduces mental acuity. Attention spans are shorter and motor skills are impaired. This increases the risks of not only accidents but poor quality control and machine operation.
Some states, such as California, have enacted specific heat stress rules. An insurance professional can help a factory operator make sure the business is in compliance with these rules and help leverage this compliance into the best rates for health, liability, and workers' compensation coverage.
Schedule a consultation today to review your facility's heat safety program and see how improving worker safety can translate into real savings on insurance. Fill out the short form below and one of our experts will reach out.