According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 1,300 deaths occur in the U.S. every year due to extreme heat. That’s not counting heat exhaustion hospitalizations, either. In 2005, there were 6,200 heat-related hospital stays, so imagine what that number is when you include recent years which have been some of the warmest on record.
When your team endures hot temperatures, it can have adverse effects on their health and productivity. For example, repairing utility or cable lines in the dead heat can put your team at risk for heat-related health issues, taking them out of the field and leaving jobs undone.
But service requests don’t stop just because it’s hot. In fact, if you’re in the utilities industry, requests will likely rise alongside temperatures as your electrical lines power home cooling systems.
We know you can’t take your field service workers out of the heat. However, we do have some ways you can help them beat it with these tips.
1. Watch the forecast and plan accordingly
Historically, meteorologists have a bad reputation for getting the weather wrong, but thanks to advancements in technology and machine learning, predictions are becoming increasingly accurate. Today, you can analyze real-time weather alerts, radar maps, hourly forecasts, and historical weather data to help you anticipate future weather conditions. In addition, predictive field service solutions can proactively add flexibility into your field service schedule when extreme weather conditions are expected.
To reduce the amount of time your team has to spend out in the extreme heat, use the weather data you have available to inform your schedulers and dispatchers. For example, if a heat wave is expected, you can schedule your appointments around the temperatures spikes, making sure that your team goes out in the mornings and evenings, which are the coolest parts of the day. It’s also a good idea to mix up your team’s tasks and leave the outdoor jobs for cooler days.
2. Provide hydrating refreshments
Working out in the heat is taxing on our bodies, causing us to sweat more and lose fluids fast. This makes staying hydrated with a cool, refreshing water important for replenishing those fluids and preventing dehydration. By providing your field service team with coolers and water, you can help them stay healthy in the heat, preventing heat-related illnesses that would take them out of the field. One thing you don’t want to provide, however, are caffeinated sodas as they will further dehydrate your team putting them at greater risk for illness.
3. Keep field service vehicles well-maintained
Even if it’s only 60 degrees outside, vehicles can reach an internal temperature of 110 degrees. Imagine what your field service vehicles will be when it’s over 90 outside — your field service vehicles could quickly become ovens. Don’t let your team cook in their cars and make sure that their vehicle’s AC systems are working and cooling efficiently so they can quickly cool down after a long service. Encourage your team to also park their vehicles in shaded areas when possible. While the air temperature isn’t different in the shade, the sun’s rays won’t be able to seep into the vehicle causing the vehicle’s temp to rise to dangerous heights.
4. Monitor employees and offer longer breaks
In this list of tips, we’ve covered the proactive ways you can help your team survive the heat. But once they’re out in the field, there’s only so much you can do. Or, is there?
Using real-time updates you receive from mobile devices and wearable technology in the field, you can monitor your employees closely to see how they’re handling the heat. If real-time adjustments need to be made to the roster to allow for longer breaks, intelligent scheduling optimization can instantly reshuffle schedules to help you accommodate for those changes. This allows your team to be flexible, giving them the chance to adapt to the extreme heat and the break time needed to cool down.
5. Prepare for emergencies through training
Once heat exhaustion sets in, does your team know what to do? Do they know the symptoms of dehydration that they should watch out for? Knowing the answers to these questions and what to do in the case of an emergency will help your team catch heat-related illnesses before they happen, but also ensures their safety in the event of an emergency.
To provide those answers to your field service team, it’s important to host safety trainings that walk them through the different warning signs, solutions, and procedures related to working in the heat. In these trainings, you should also detail the steps they can take to prevent becoming overworked or dehydrated. Once everyone has undergone training, it’s a good idea to provide your team with guides, tip sheets, or other additional resources to keep safety top-of-mind when hot days are on the horizon.
Gear Up for the Heat
As we move further into the summer, now is the time to get your field service team ready to endure the hot temperatures. As a professional in field service management, you don’t want anyone on your team to suffer a heat-related illness that could take them out of commission.
For your best chance at preparing your team, you need to analyze weather predictions, host safety trainings, and equip your team with tools that can keep them cool. Predictive field service software is one such tool where you can accurately schedule your team to maximize efficiency without sacrificing safety.
If you want to discover more field service management or preparation tips, check out the rest of the ClickSoftware blog.