The safety protocols implemented as a means of combating the spread of COVID-19 will complicate the plans for heat illness prevention. The requirement for wearing face-coverings while working will make identifying employees who may be suffering from a heat illness issue more difficult. Acting President and CEO of AgSafe, Theresa Kiehn explained that employers may want to implement additional methods for monitoring workers to ensure their safety.
“When we start to hit temperatures of 95 degrees or more, supervisors should only be observing 20 or less employees and also enacting the buddy system,” said Kiehn. “That way we make sure that we have extra eyes on our employees in seeing if anybody is struggling and looking for those signs of heat illness so we can take the proper steps to ensure that we mitigate those issues early on.”
As employees’ faces will be partially covered, assessing other visual cues that would indicate a potential problem will become paramount. An employee who is sweating profusely, or appears not to be stable, or demonstrates a slowing in their normal work pattern may be suffering from an instance of heat illness. “Make sure that you are being very diligent in watching your employees and making sure that they are doing okay,” Kiehn noted.
COVID-19 safety measures will also require additional steps for employers to limit any potential exposure. All of the water stations as well as all restroom facilities will need to be cleaned and sanitized much more frequently throughout the workday. Another additional consideration for employers will be the provision of shade during breaks. Previous shade accommodations will likely need to be updated to allow for social distancing. “Maybe you actually need a second or third popup to take out with you so that way you can ensure that when you do have your workers and they are taking their breaks, that they’ve got space to spread out and do the social distancing piece, which is really important,” said Kiehn.
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