Ahhh, summer... the time of picnics, barbecues, and trips to the seashore. But that same sultry weather that delights beach-goers can make life miserable for workers in warehouses and DCs, where rising temps put them at risk of exhaustion, dehydration (which interferes with the body's cooling response), cramping, and heat-related illness.
The good news is that illnesses like heat stress and heat stroke are preventable. To help facilities keep their workers safe and productive, the Atlanta-based staffing firm Randstad has compiled some guidelines for managing heat-related risks.
For starters, Randstad urges facility managers to keep an eye on the region's "heat index"—a single value that takes both temperature and humidity into account, making it a better measure of risk to workers than temperature alone. When the heat index reaches 91 degrees, the company says, managers should require workers to take hydration breaks every 45 to 60 minutes, and when it hits 103 degrees, those breaks should take place every 30 to 45 minutes. Once the heat index reaches 115 degrees, more drastic measures are called for. Managers should require water breaks every 15 minutes, rotate employees off the job, or simply reschedule work tasks for the morning or evening shifts when it tends to be cooler.
On the all-important topic of hydration, Corey Berghoefer, Randstad's senior vice president of risk management and insurance, urges DCs in hot regions to set up water stations throughout the facility. Many operations stash cases of bottled water at spots like the conveyor line, workstations, pack stations, and loading and receiving docks, he notes. Other companies take a fun approach, encouraging hydration by handing out popsicles during breaks or renting a slushy machine for the lunchroom, he adds.