Do recent hot temperatures have you cranking up the AC in the work van? You're not alone. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Summer 2022 Outlook features above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall. With scorching summer weather threatening areas like Colorado, Utah, and most of New England, HVAC and plumbing operators are now questioning how to protect their technicians from the heat.
If your technicians spend a great deal of time outdoors or en route to field service calls each day, it's imperative to remain mindful of the risks that extreme heat and dry temperatures can pose. Here are the best technician tips to help beat the heat and stay safe this summer.
Understanding Technician Risks in Summer Heat
To fully grasp the critical nature of staying safe as an HVAC or plumbing technician during the summer heat, it's important to understand the risks of prolonged heat exposure while working outdoors. Working in excessive heat can result in various health concerns, including tiredness and mild dehydration. In more severe situations, technicians may face the risk of heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body is exposed to extreme heat and begins to interrupt various bodily functions.
Some of the main symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive perspiration
- Dizziness and weakness
- Loss of consciousness
It's essential to listen to your body — or the symptoms reported by your technicians — when working in extreme heat. Failure to heed the warnings of heat exhaustion could be extremely dangerous and even fatal, as heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke. To prevent all heat-related risks while working out in the field, adhere to the following tactics.
5 Best Technician Tips for Staying Safe in the Summer Heat
Staying safe against extreme summer heat does not mean simply stepping inside to cool off every once in a while or cranking up the AC in the work truck. Instead, follow these five tips to help protect your technicians' health from the wrath of the upcoming summer heat.
1. Stay Hydrated
As a technician works in extreme heat, the body will expel excess fluids through sweating to maintain a healthy bodily temperature. Though sweating is a normal physical function to help keep the body cool, failure to combine perspiration with proper hydration can be detrimental to a technician's health and ultimately lead to dehydration.
To avoid dehydration while working in the field, encourage water consumption every 15 minutes while working during extreme temperatures. Likewise, advise meeting the recommended amount of 8 to 10 cups of water per day. Be sure to avoid caffeinated or sugary drinks, as these do not support ample hydration and speed up dehydration rates.
2. Take Breaks
Even with proper hydration, HVAC and plumbing technicians can still experience the numerous risks associated with heat exhaustion. For those outdoor work orders that require day-long dedication, encourage technicians to take breaks indoors or in an air-conditioned company vehicle from time to time to avoid overheating. Failure to interrupt a body's rising body temperature with a cool break while working outdoors for a prolonged period can encourage heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
3. Wear Proper Clothing
Many technicians are unaware that the clothing they wear to complete outdoor jobs can significantly impact the rate at which they can reach heat exhaustion. Thick long sleeves and long pants can prevent sweat from evaporating off the skin and trap heat, which prevents technicians from maintaining healthy bodily temperatures. During hot summer days, encourage your team to wear short sleeve shirts and shorts that allow for more breathability and sweat evaporation.
If you require your technicians to follow a specific uniform, provide clothing during the summer that uses a breathable and moisture-wicking material to help support a healthy body temperature. Likewise, consider avoiding dark colors that absorb heat and sunlight and instead replace them with light-colored clothing items that can help reflect it.
4. Provide Heat Exhaustion Training
All tips aside, one of the best ways you can help technicians from encountering the dangers of heat exhaustion is through proper training. HVAC and plumbing business operators can begin by establishing workplace protocol that educates technicians on general safety practices and requirements, including adequate hydration, uniform needs, and breaks during high heat days.
A crucial component of a heat exhaustion training program is to educate employees on the symptoms commonly associated with heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including loss of consciousness, headache, and muscle cramps. This training must also include proper response practices, including contacting medical help and notifying supervisors of the situation. Heat exhaustion training will protect each technician individually and their coworkers and peers.
5. Monitor Conditions and Adjust as Needed
From unprecedented heat waves to desert locations that can reach well over 100 degrees by mid-day, it's important for all HVAC and plumbing operations to continuously monitor local weather conditions and adjust their operations as needed. For strenuous work requests, such as installing ductwork or digging outdoor plumbing lines on dangerously hot days, consider scheduling jobs in the morning or afternoon hours when cooler temperatures are present.
You may also need to postpone or reschedule jobs as required for unexpected heat events. While you may want to keep customers happy, you must help protect the health of your technicians first — which can ultimately ensure customers' safe and productive job completion in the long run.
Beat the Heat This Summer 2022
The wrath of the summer heat is no joke. However, by effectively providing technicians with the proper tips and resources, operators can better protect them from heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Additionally, your team will find their work more productive and enjoyable when they are adequately protected from sweltering temperatures.
Director of Operations at JB Warranties