In South Texas, the average temperature in September is above 90 degrees. For many workers, the heat of summer and fall creates challenging work environments. The most obvious challenges are heat exhaustion and heat stroke that result from exposure to the sun. Employers should also watch for another potential danger to workers from the heat: a lack of personal protective equipment.
PPE and Hot Weather: The Employer's Responsibility
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is mandated either by employers or by safety regulations to protect workers from hazards. It may involve head, ear or eye protection, hand protection, leg and foot protection, respiratory protection, or other equipment that protects workers from hazards.
Workers often fail to use protection provided to them. According to the magazine Occupational Health & Safety, one study found that more than 80 percent of safety professionals saw a worker not wearing PPE in the last year. Hot weather may make compliance rates fall even further. Workers may shed layers of protective equipment to work in more comfortable conditions.
According to the magazine, some workers say that wearing required protective clothing makes it harder to do their job. During hot weather, they believe they may get too hot with protective clothing and feel like they can do their job better without it.
As an employer, you have a responsibility to conduct a hazard assessment of workplaces, provide workers with appropriate safety equipment and require them to use it.
How Can You Get Workers to Wear PPE in the Heat?
- Keep it comfortable. Occupational Health & Safety magazine says that more comfortable protective equipment may lead to better compliance rates.
- Make sure PPE fits. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's own guidelines recommend taking the fit and comfort levels of PPE into account when purchasing equipment because it can encourage its use.
- Remind employees why PPE is important. An effective training and compliance program is also an important factor in making sure your employees take their safety equipment seriously.
- Stay hydrated. Keep enough fresh, cool water so that each worker can drink about one quart per hour.
Use toolbox talks and pre-shift meetings to remind employees to take the heat – and their safety – seriously.