How Crews Stay Prepared to Work Through Intense Summer Heat

In Texas, no one has to be told about the heat. While it’s been a mild spring this year, San Antonio will soon be settling into the 90s on a regular basis. Even though our community is so accustomed to the heat, high humidity levels combined with high temperatures increases the risk for people spending time in these conditions. This is why we must think about National Heat Awareness day. Like other weather conditions, CPS Energy crews work through the heat to serve our customers 24/7/365 – making it essential to stop and think about the dangers of heat and how to manage them.

Before every job, our crews have a pre-job safety brief, known as a tailboard meeting to discuss the job they will be performing. One of the critical elements of a tailboard is evaluating the hazards of the job once they’ve arrived on site and how they will avoid any harm or damage. They discuss everything from tripping hazards, to critters, to energized wires. During this time of year, preventing heat-related injuries are part of that discussion. According to Harvard Medical School, a heat-related injury today can make you more susceptible to heatstroke in the future. This is just one reason to take preventative measures in hot weather.

CPS Energy’s safety manual outlines several ways to avoid heat-related injuries for individuals working in the sun or extreme heat. For example:

  • Wearing protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. That may not seem like the right thing to do in hot weather but loose-fitting long-sleeves protect your skin from the heat and sunburn.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or an air-conditioned space when possible.
  • Drink more fluids – even if you don’t feel thirsty. Water is the best option – especially better than sugary drinks like sodas or sports drinks or dehydrating drinks like alcohol and coffee.
  • We provide our employees with heat-related injury prevention supplies and equipment, everything from water to sunscreen and cooling towels.
  • Prevention starts as early as 12 hours in advance. This means drinking water and eating well before you start working.

Our crews also know how to watch out for each other. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat stress can save lives. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines several signs to watch for when you are working in hot conditions:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Slurred Speech
  • Heat Rash
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting

Click here to see more of the symptoms OSHA recommends watching for. These kinds of symptoms are reason enough to stop the job, administer first aid, and possibly call for emergency services. According to the National Weather Service, heat was linked to more weather-related fatalities in a 20-year average than any other kind of weather event as of 2019.

This summer, just like last year, may present the ongoing challenge of COVID-19. While mask mandates are lifted and vaccinations remain on the rise, the pandemic is still not over. Employees do still have the option to wear masks. For anyone who does choose to wear a mask while working in hot conditions, the CDC offers recommendations for managing the risk of heat stress while wearing a mask:

  • Cloth face coverings or masks and PPE (e.g., for healthcare personnel)
    • Provide workers with cloth face coverings or masks and any required PPE that provide proper protection but minimize heat stress. Some considerations include:
      • Cloth face coverings or masks that are lightweight and light in color.
      • Protective garments (if worn) made of breathable materials that are also lightweight and light in color.
      • Damp or dirty cloth face coverings or masks need to be replaced with clean ones.

Click here to read more tips from the CDC about heat stress and face masks.

You can rest assured our crews place a priority on Safety, so they can continue to serve our community and return home to their loved ones every day. We’re happy to share our experience and tips with you because heat-related injuries like heat stress can affect anyone.

If you are planning on spending time in the sun this summer, make sure you have a plan to stay safe. Know what you are going to do to avoid a heat injury and know the signs and symptoms. While National Heat Awareness day may not be a day for celebration, it is a day for preparation, to stop and think about the hot and humid weather and how it can affect us and those we care about. Putting these simple tips into action can keep other work crews and folks spending time outdoors safe, and safe individuals create a safe community.