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3 'Cool' Legal Tips for Businesses in a Heat Wave

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 18, 2013 1:56 PM

Summer heat waves may be a boon if you're running a lemonade stand, but small business owners might be more burdened than blessed by oppressive temperatures.

That's especially true if your business involves working in the great outdoors, which can be not-so-great -- and downright dangerous -- during a heat wave.

For those business owners who aren't working on a device that changes the weather, here are three tips to help your employees stay cool -- and to help you avoid potential liability:

1. Give Employees Access to Water.

It might seem like common sense, but dehydration is a major issue during a heat wave, and a good employer will ensure his workers have free access to water.

Aside from being just a good idea, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that workers drink at least one pint of water per hour.

State guidelines for water access may vary, like in California, where employers are recommended to provide:

  • Enough cool, clean water (one quart per hour) for each employee;
  • Water in a convenient location close to employees;
  • A small beverage container for each employee to use while working; and
  • Ice when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees.

Giving your employees water will not only prevent them from dehydrating or suffering other heat-related illness, but it will also allow them to work longer in heat wave conditions (especially when outside).

2. Allow for Breaks and Rest Periods.

Whether you are in heat wave conditions or simply in a part of the country where summer temperatures are dangerously high, you need to allow your outdoor employees a chance to cool off in the shade.

Breaks in the shade will give your employees a chance to reduce their UV exposure, lower their core body temperature, and reapply sunscreen, which, in places like Arizona, are practically business necessities.

Allowing your employees to rest and cool off will reduce their risk of heat stroke and dehydration, as well as let them return to work recharged.

3. Develop a Heat Stress Program.

In the most extreme cases, heat stress illness and injuries can lead to death. That's why a prudent business owner will want to prepare for extreme temperatures by creating a heat stress program to educate employees and protect them from heat-related injuries.

OSHA guidelines recommend that a heat stress program include:

  • Training employees to recognize and reduce heat illness,
  • Screening employees for heat-related conditions,
  • Acclimating new and returning employees,
  • Outlining procedures to be followed during extreme heat conditions, and
  • Providing first aid to workers who show heat illness symptoms.

Heat illness can come in many forms, and heat stress sufferers can even exhibit flu-like symptoms, so it's important for your employees to recognize these signs and treat them before it's too late.

Safe employees are happy employees, and by keeping these heat wave safety tips in mind, your employees' improved health and morale can keep you surrounded in cool profits.

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