Every season has its safety issues. The transition from spring to summer is no exception. However, it can be dealt with successfully when the proper preparation and safety measures are put in place.
Living in Florida, ARA Insurance Preferred Agent Jim Browning, president, The Browning Agency, Ponte Vedra Beach, knows that all too well. Annja Topolski, new insurance agent with the agency, who has been an underwriter at ARA Insurance for years, is learning that firsthand. To help their insured members keep employees safe, they address “both internal and external exposures that rental operators need to be aware of,” Browning says.
Internal exposures: “The biggest exposure is the need for ventilation,” Browning says. “If you don’t have air moving around inside a warehouse or building, you can create all kinds of issues. Another exposure is keeping employees hydrated; however, most rental operators have water coolers so employees can hydrate properly.”
External exposures: “External exposures include everything from sunburn and heat exhaustion to overheating. The goal is to make sure employees are given adequate breaks in the shade, hydrating them and ensuring they are wearing proper clothing and sunscreen,” he says.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can have long-lasting and even deadly consequences. Most people think about those issues in relation to working in the yard, but they can happen anywhere, Browning and Topolski say.
“Heat exhaustion can affect drivers if they don’t have air-conditioned trucks. They can get fatigued, or, if they have been working in the yard a lot and then drive a truck right afterwards, they can become overcome with heat exhaustion,” he says.
To counteract that, “acclimate your workers to heat tolerance. Employees who aren’t used to working in high temperatures can’t handle it like those who are used to it. Exposures to heat should be limited and gradually increased,” Topolski says.
In addition, “prepare and plan the proper PPE [personal protective equipment] for the specific environment that your workers will be in,” she adds. “Is it dry? Is it humid? Will there be a lot of asphalt, which can get very hot in direct sunlight? Are there shaded areas or access to air conditioning to cool off? Thinking about these things ahead of time will help you and your crews decide on the appropriate garments, including good-fitting, quality gloves, protective eyewear and sunscreen. Altering work hours to avoid the highest-risk parts of the day is beneficial, too.”
Other exposures can come from the dry ground, Browning adds. “If you have dirt yards, they can quickly dry out because of the heat, creating a lot of debris in the air — dirt and sand. It is good to wet down surfaces because with workers’ comp, if you have an eye injury in which a person loses sight in one eye, workers’ comp coverage identifies that person as permanently disabled and creates a large workers’ comp loss,” he says.
To put everyone on the same page, Topolski suggests that “every morning before you go out on the job, have a meeting with your team, have a checklist, make sure you have everything you need when you are on a job site. Make sure that everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms of a heat stroke, are watching out for each other, taking breaks and hydrating constantly. It’s another prevention step,” she says.
It’s all about helping clients understand their exposures and taking the steps to mitigate them.
“That is why Annja’s new role with us is exciting. She was [an ARA Insurance] underwriter for six years. She understands all our Florida exposures. She is working hand-in-hand with me to advise clients,” Browning says.
Topolski agrees that she brings a unique underwriting perspective to the table. “Being on the underwriting side, safety policies and procedures are things your insurance carrier wants to know you have in place. Your workers’ comp carrier wants to know they are there. Jim and I will be working with our insured members in understanding their exposures and how they can take preventive steps to help the safety of their employees. Safety should always come first,” she says.