High heat and construction work are simply not compatible. Yet, the work must get completed. Workers must wear protective clothing and gear which diminishes the body’s capacity to shed heat. This fact combined with high heat creates specific exposures which require vigilant monitoring.
Short-term exposures to heat and humidity:
- Prevention: Drink plenty of water – a good test is the employee must urinate every three hours at a minimum, two hours is better. If they do not need to urinate, they are not getting adequate fluids. Wear breathable clothing such as cotton. Work in the shade or indoors as much as possible, take frequent water breaks in the shade.
- Heat exhaustion: the stage prior to heat stroke when many symptoms from dehydration can be noticed. Any dizziness, nausea or vomiting, cramping, or sudden weakness requires immediate attention. Headaches, blurred vision or unusual fatigue can be signs of heat exhaustion. Rest the worker in the shade, loosen tight clothing and provide water. Observe the employee for several minutes. If they quit sweating or any symptom becomes worse, or they breathe rapidly or have a quick pulse, seek emergency medical help immediately.
- Heat stroke: LIFE THREATENING. Add these to the heat exhaustion symptoms:
- Hallucinations, confusion, disorientation, illogical behavior
- High body temperature, red or pale skin, difficulty breathing
- Unconsciousness or coma
Seek immediate professional help for these symptoms.
Bacteria carrying insects love this weather. Lyme disease and West Nile Virus are not uncommon. Prevention includes spraying mosquito deterrent and checking for ticks.
Long-term exposures include skin cancer. Wear protective clothing and use sunscreen.
Common sense goes a long way to prevent over-taxing workers. If a concrete pour is scheduled for an extremely hot day, postpone. You’ll spare your employees heat related discomfort, and the odds of getting the concrete in before it sets is remote at best.
Remember your machine operators too. Check on them throughout the day and carefully observe their performance. Any signs of erratic behavior needs to be addressed immediately. Even air conditioned cabins can create dehydrating condition in the hot sun.
If you want your crew working Friday, you need to supply plenty of water and shaded rest breaks Monday through Thursday. The body can only take so much heat.
Create a safety culture within your organization. Let every employee know safety is the number one employee benefit. The top executive takes the lead and mentions some safety news in every company meeting. Simply talking and promoting safety is time, it does not cost a great deal of money.
Drivers must use seat belts, must be sober and drug free, not use cell phones or text while driving, and not pick up unauthorized passengers. At least semi-annually, drug test every driver and check their driving records. Randomly test one quarter of the drivers every three months. Establish a threshold for tickets and accidents, and stick to that standard. These minimum safety standards cost about as much as a tank of gas in a pick-up.
Supply personal safety protective equipment for employees. Although this requirement comes from OSHA regulations, it’s a great investment too. One eye wash at the local doc in the box costs about as much as a hundred pairs of safety glasses.
Harnesses to tie off workers at heights cost little next to broken bones and death from a fall.
Hard hats are about fifteen to twenty dollars each. Closing a head wound runs about five thousand.
Reflective vests or coveralls, again, cost much less than a man versus loader collision.
Now, suppose you could save five percent of your workers’ compensation premium for the next three years from reduced experience mod or lower premium rates. You can afford to make the investment in safety equipment.
Consider an incentive program like this: quarterly bonus for no injuries and perfect prompt attendance. Perhaps pay everyone who meets those criteria an extra fifty cents per hour for the quarter. This extra pay amounts to about one hundred dollars per month. Wouldn’t it be worth everyone earning it? Or, maybe one quarter the earners get a pair of Red Wing boots, a gift card to their favorite tool store, a gift card oriented towards their spouses, a flat screen television or use your imagination.
Small investments in safety awareness and loss prevention do pay large dividends in reduced losses.
Workers’ compensation requires an end of the policy year audit to assure proper premium is charged. This process protects both the insured and insurers.
Think through this process to make it easier, and cost saving. First, choose a policy year that creates an easy audit. The calendar year works for many companies. You already must report payrolls to the US government, the paperwork is essentially done. Calendar quarters work for the same reason.
If you prefer to use your corporate tax year, go ahead. If you complete quarterly profit and loss, you can use a financial quarter. But choose an annual period which already has an audit trail.
Keep payroll records separate for each workers’ compensation classification. Normally, this record keeping is straightforward. The same people specialize in certain tasks: clerical, sales, labor, or drivers.
Some operations can be more complex. If labor crosses from one specialty to another, perhaps a carpenter helps pour a concrete slab, that payroll should be split on an hourly rate. The higher rate applies otherwise.
Demand any subcontractor, for example a hood cleaning crew for a restaurant, provide a Certificate of Insurance (COI). Technically, insurance companies can charge for the payroll portion of any contracted work in the absence of a COI.
If you use to a non-covered contractor, keep those records to properly assign a discount for premium.
Lastly, keep records to isolate overtime pay. Overtime payroll receives a discount for premium purposes.
Make audits easier. Choose a convenient policy period. Keep records for independent contractors with COIs, and payments to those without. Isolate overtime pay. Segregate individual payroll by classification if that individual works in multiple job descriptions.
Your premium will be more accurate with a minimal additional management effort. And, the default position is always to increase payroll, and therefore, premium.