Field work in a Desert Environment
The dramatic landscapes of Southern California’s Coachella Valley are home to more than 300,000 full-time residents who find the area a great place to work and play. However, this beauty can be deceiving, especially when working on outdoor assignments in the heat of summer. With temperatures averaging above 102 degrees from June through September, it is imperative that businesses with outdoor workers are prepared to handle extreme working conditions. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), excessive exposure to heat can cause a number of illnesses and precautions must be made to avoid dangerous and even deadly situations. Illness includes heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke as well as sunburn and dehydration.
At The Altum Group, we take our worker’s health and safety seriously, and have established a set of criteria to help workers in the field lower their risk of serious injury. Our surveyors, utility locators, and drone pilots are all required to follow certain guidelines when working outside in the summer months. The following protocol aim to avoid heat illnesses:
- Work Hours: The sun is strongest between 10am and 4pm, consider beginning assignments earlier in the morning.
- Buddy System: Staff should be working in teams of two, monitoring one another for any signs or symptoms of heat illness.
- Protective Clothing: Acceptable wardrobe includes wide brimmed hats and light colored loose-fitting moisture wicking long-sleeve shirts and long pants.
- Water Breaks: Water should be consumed in small doses throughout the day to avoid dehydration – every 15 minutes at a minimum.
- Shade Breaks: When shade is not available, sitting in an air conditioned truck is considered sufficient for cooling.
While we cannot avoid working in the sun, we take the appropriate steps to ensure all staff are safe when working outside. Staff are trained in recognizing symptoms of heat-illness and the steps taken if they suspect themselves or a coworker have fallen ill. On days with extreme heat indexes, we try to reschedule field visits, provide staff with cooling towels and sufficient water supplies, and ensure our sites have shade or that there are trucks available to use for cooling. These precautions help our staff feel safe and secure when working outside in the extreme heat of the southern California desert.