The summer is ripe for fun, but as the saying goes, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Make sure your business is prepared to combat these five big summertime risks, as told by the experts.
1. Heat-Related Illness
A hot sun is great when you’re lounging by the pool, but OSHA notes working in full sunlight can increase the heat index value by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. In truth, you and your employees don’t even need the increase to be at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Certified occupational health nurse specialist Jamesha Williams says the signs of heat illness include…
- Persistent, rapid heartbeat.
- Dry, hot, and red skin.
- Excessive sweating.
- Throbbing headache.
- Muscle cramps.
- Confusion and dizziness.
Beat the heat: Williams recommends you encourage employees to:
- Drink 16 to 32 ounces of fluids per hour of exposure to extreme heat.
- Stay hydrated even when they aren’t working.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sports beverages.
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Take mini-breaks in shaded areas or cooler areas when possible.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists “exposure to harmful environments” as one of the top non-fatal injuries workers experience. Make sure you have sufficient Workers’ Compensation Insurance to help pay for your employees' medical expenses if they are injured while working in the hot summer sun all day.
2. Sunburns & Skin Cancer
According to Jean Sniffin, a community health nurse for Century Health Systems (@CenturyHealthSy), you and your employees should watch out for sunburns, which are more harmful than many people realize.
“Every time you get a sunburn that results in redness, you have a first-degree burn,” says Sniffin. When it blisters, it’s a second-degree burn.
But sunburns are just the beginning of a more serious problem. WebMd reports that skin cancer is usually caused by years of prolonged sun exposure – a reality with serious ramifications for outdoor workers.
For anyone working outside, Sniffin recommends a minimum of 30 percent or more broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapply it every two hours. “A shot glass's worth should be enough to cover the body effectively," she notes.
Take cover: Some states recognize skin cancer as an occupational disease for certain industries, which means Workers’ Comp might cover treatments. Here are some additional ways you can decrease the risk for your workers:
- Encourage your employees to wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and hats.
- Schedule outdoor tasks for the early morning.
- Rotate workers’ duties to reduce their exposure.
- Add tents or cooling stations to the work site.
3. Bee Sting Allergies
Bee allergies may be rare. According to the USDA, only one or two out of every 1,000 people are truly allergic, but stings can still be deadly, especially if you aren't prepared. Sniffin notes that some people may be allergic and not know it.
The USDA also lists the symptoms of a life-threatening reaction:
- Rash or hives.
- Stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Dizziness or severe headache.
- Swelling outside of the sting site, like in the throat, neck, or tongue.
- Drop in blood pressure.
Bee proactive: A person who knows they have an allergy may have an EpiPen on hand. For everyone else, you may want to have antihistamine in your first aid kit. It can buy you time to get to the hospital.
Most small-business owners see their employees’ vacation requests and worry that productivity will plummet. However, Maura Nevel Thomas (@mnthomas), founder and chief trainer of the productivity training company RegainYourTime.com, suggests those fears are unfounded.
“Vacation provides a crucial opportunity to recharge, refresh, refocus, and rejuvenate,” says Nevel Thomas. “It allows us distance from our work and our lives that provides a new perspective, a creativity boost, and a clarity of thought that gets buried by the fast pace of our everyday lives.”
Long story short? Time off for your employees may be a boon to your business. Check out “Is Vacation Good or Bad for Your Small Business? An Expert Weighs In” for more details.
Take five: Just because vacation can boost productivity doesn’t mean you want everyone out of the office at the same time. Work out a system that fairly allocates time off without leaving you understaffed.
5. Power Outages
Edward Colson, the owner of the emergency preparedness and business continuity planning firm Ready Northwest (@Ready_Northwest), says rising temperatures can also increase the risk of power outages. Lightning strikes to your building or an overloaded power grid can knock out electronics that aren’t safeguarded by a surge protector.
Additionally, Colson recommends having a backup power source in place, especially for businesses that have sensitive IT equipment or perishable food.
“Check to see if your building has an alarm or facility manager that can alert you to power outages when they happen both during and after business hours,” Colson says.
Power up: Commercial Property Insurance with Business Interruption coverage is a good investment for many small businesses, but discuss the policy with your agent. Business Interruption doesn’t always cover power outages. Get more details in “Business Interruption Insurance: How It Works.”
About the Contributors
Edward Colson is the owner of Ready Northwest, a consulting firm that helps create emergency preparedness and business continuity planning for businesses and organizations so they can deal with disruptions caused by natural and man-made events. He has over eight years of experience working in emergency preparedness, communications, and response and possesses a degree in emergency management.
A 20-year veteran of personal productivity, Maura Nevel Thomas is founder and chief trainer of RegainYourTime.com and creator of the Empowered Productivity System, a process for managing the details of life and work. As a speaker and trainer, Maura helps individuals, organizations, and corporations maximize their communications tools, defend their attention, and achieve their significant results.
A 35-year Natick Visiting Nurse Association / Century Health Systems registered nurse, Jean Sniffin today serves as community health nurse. She works closely with the Boards of Health in Ashland, Holliston, Hopkinton, Medfield, and Sherborn to promote health through monthly blood pressure clinics at town Councils on Aging and senior housing sites.
Jamesha Williams, RN, MBA, COHN-S, is a certified occupational health nurse specialist. She has over 16 years of experience as a registered nurse, including work as an occupational health manager for 4,000 local government employees in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Williams’ next venture is Comfort Medical and More, a retail business that specializes in medical equipment, supplies, and uniforms.