Summer safety tips for the warehouse worker or forklift driver
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Summer safety tips for the warehouse worker or forklift driver

June 21 marks the first day of summer and as the temperature outside continues to climb, so too do the risks of working outside in the heat. Each year, thousands of employees experience some type of illness or injury from becoming overheated on the job. Without proper attention to the rising temperatures, fatal heat stroke can occur. Risks can be minimized with care and attention to the hot summer heat. Summertime is one of the busiest times for forklift drivers. Often, orders increase in the summer, and overtime hours are the norm. The distinctive burdens and challenges of forklift and warehouse operations warrant attention to detail and demand proper safety practices to avoid heat related illness.

Why Is Summer Heat so Dangerous for Warehouse Workers and Forklift Drivers?

Our bodies maintain their stable internal temperature by sweating and circulating blood to the skin. When we become very hot, our body is not able to maintain the steady internal temperature. When the blood brought to the skin is unable to lose its heat, sweating becomes the chief way for the body to release any excess heat. However, perspiration is only successful if the air’s humidity is low enough for sweat to evaporate. The fluids and salts in the body that are los due to sweating must also be replaced with proper hydration and nutrition. When you cannot get rid of excess heat, your risk of heatstroke, heat rash, vomiting, fainting, and even death rises.

Employees working outside this summer on a forklift, or inside a hot, poorly ventilated warehouse need to prepare for the heat and take proper steps to stay hydrated, and cool.

Who Is Most at Risk for Heat Illness?

According to OSHA, workplaces where employees are most likely to experience heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses include:

  • Iron and steel foundries
  • Non-ferrous foundries
  • Brick-firing and ceramic plants
  • Glass production plants
  • Rubber product factories
  • Electrical utilities, like boiler rooms
  • Food canneries
  • Chemical plants
  • Mining sites
  • Smelters
  • Steam tunnels
  • Construction work
  • Farm work
  • Oil and gas well operations
  • Asbestos removal
  • Landscaping
  • Hazardous waste site activities

Along with these workplaces, warehouse workers and forklift drivers are frequently exposed to extreme temperatures in summer.

Hot Weather Safety Tips for the Workplace

Whether you’re the forklift operator, warehouse worker or the employer, stay safe this summer by abiding by these rules:

1. Stay Hydrated

Take frequent water beaks during the hot days of summer. Forklift operators can also keep a water bottle in their lift. In order to operate a lift or perform warehouse duties well, physical preparation keeps you safe. Keeping hydrated is key to reducing the risks of heat stroke.

2. Stay on Track with Your Maintenance Schedule

With sweltering conditions, forklifts and machinery may require extra attention, too. Overheating is a common problem for equipment, so ensure a routine maintenance schedule is followed. Forklifts can quickly overheat in summer, when coolant levels get low. These levels should be checked regularly. You should also examine the lift’s hoses and tires, as hot temperatures can make them more vulnerable to cracking or tearing.

3. Take Routine Breaks

Although it may seem counterproductive to getting work done to take frequent breaks, it is needed when conditions are hot or humid. Forklift operators and warehouse workers may have issues performing their normal tasks if they are dehydrated or overheated. Employees should take frequent breaks throughout the day when conditions are hot to rest in the shade, drink water, and enjoy a small snack. This will keep body temperature low, and fluid levels up.

4. Take precautions in the sun

Those working outside should stay out of the sun as much as possible. For those who can’t, wearing sunscreen and clothing with SPF protection will keep skin from burning. Hydrate with water as much as possible, and wear a hat or sunglasses if no PPE is needed on the eyes or head.

5. Watch for Signs of Heat-Related Illness

The best way to prevent heat-related illness and accidents from happening on a worksite is to closely monitor the signs and symptoms of the beginnings of heat-related discomfort. Common symptoms of heat-related illness include:.

  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and weakness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of focus
  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramping
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
6. Offer Forklift Safety Training

All forklift drivers need to be up to date with the latest OSHA forklift safety requirements and undergo continued training to prevent accidents and illness.