Preparing for the Unexpected

As we move into the spring and summer, safety directors should be prepared for all the types of weather Mother Nature can throw at us.

They say you should always expect the unexpected. 2020 threw us a lot of unexpected—mostly in the form of a global pandemic. Judging this article by the title, you’d probably think that I would be writing, yet another, From the Editor article on COVID-19, but I decided instead of discussing the virus, we should talk about other unexpected things that could change the way safety professionals look at keeping their employees safe.

Let’s talk about the weather. While the weather isn’t entirely unexpected, as there are historic averages for how the climate will be on certain days in certain areas, there sometimes can be an abnormally cold day, an intensely hot afternoon, a rainstorm out of nowhere or even more extreme weather events such as hail, tornados and hurricanes.

Each of these weather events garners its own plan. As we move into the spring and summer, safety directors should be prepared for all the types of weather Mother Nature can throw at us. In this issue of OH&S, we have a few articles that discuss worker safety as it relates to the different kinds of weather we might see in the next few months.

Our Associate Content Editor, Nikki Johnson-Bolden, wrote a great article on Summer Hazards and Heat Stress. In it, she outlines all the different types of illnesses that can be brought on by extreme heat—and they are no joke. They are so important, in fact, that California lawmakers are urging OSHA to develop a federal standard to keep workers safe in these high temperatures. What could that standard include? Find out on page 8.

Speaking of heat—we also have a great article that dives into the innovative world of cooling technology and PPE. On page 43 you can find out how personal protective equipment is now an essential part of keeping a worker cool. When this cooling PPE is paired with proper training, hydration and regular breaks in the shade, workers are less likely to have heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion or worse.

Also included in this issue is an article on page 38 that goes in-depth on the different kinds of protective apparel workers will need to protect themselves from those spring showers. In this expertly researched article, the author defines terms that can help arm you with the information you need to purchase rainwear for your workers. Want to know the difference between waterproof and water resistant? Check out this article.

In 2021, I hope that you and your organization are preparing for all those incidents that could be categorized under the “unexpected” category. Planning, anticipating and preparing are just a few things that safety professionals do best—just don’t forget to think about the most mundane, yet unexpected thing that could happen this year: the weather.

This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the former editor of Occupational Health & Safety.

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