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PEYTON SMITH — Managing heat-related risk



I f there is one thing that we can all agree on about Mississippi in the summertime, it is that it’s hot. No matter how hard we try or what we do, the heat isn’t going anywhere and we can’t seem to cool off. From a risk management and  insurance standpoint, the hot conditions of the summer can lead to some serious and sometimes dangerous exposures.

A few years ago, I went back to my hometown of Greenville for an engagement party for one of my good friends. My wife was preparing for the bar exam at the time, so she did not make the trip and stayed home in Jackson to study. The following morning I got a phone call from her that said “don’t panic, but the fire department is here because our air conditioner is on fire.” Not exactly the way you want to be woken up in the morning. I ran out the door in a panic and drove back to Jackson. Luckily the fire department had taken care of the fire and we were no longer in danger. Apparently our air conditioner had been running so hard for so long that one of the units containing some type of oil broke and landed on the capacitor, which was so hot that it immediately burst into flames. Thankfully the unit was outside because if it had been in the attic, the house would have more than likely burned down.

On the drive back, a million questions started running through my mind. How did this happen? What if nobody was home and the house burned down? How are we going to pay for a new air conditioner? Luckily, our Homeowners Insurance policy covered the air conditioner, but most importantly, nobody was hurt.

At the time, we were living in an older house that had very little insulation with an older air conditioner. We also had not done anything to prepare our house for the summer heat, so the air conditioner was constantly running. A few steps to help prepare your house for the summer and reduce the chance of burning out your air conditioner are:

» Check attic insulation. Having your house properly insulated could help your air conditioner run more efficiently by helping to keep the air in the house.

» Seal air leaks. Cool air can easily slip through the cracks of doors and windows instead of staying in the house or room that you are wanting cooled.

» Replace the air filter. Clogged or dirty air filters can block airflow and cause your air conditioner to be over worked and not work as efficiently.

» Clear the area around the air conditioner 

The summer heat in Mississippi can also put employees in danger and potentially be the cause of Workers Compensation claims. Employees whose jobs require physical labor could be exposed to the extreme heat that could cause dehydration, heat stroke or other injuries that could potentially cause them to miss work. As an employer, it is very important to make sure that you and your employees take the right steps to prevent heat related injuries that could cause lost time at work. The following are a few steps to help your employees stay safe during the summer heat and humidity: drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine, wear light and/or loose fitting clothing, wear sunblock and take breaks in shaded or air conditioned areas.

A person can lose up to 10 cups of water per day through sweat, which could be harmful to your body. It is important to educate your employees on the signs of dehydration to make sure that it is prevented before it is too late.  The following are symptoms that an employee is becoming dehydrated: excessive thirst, sleepiness or fatigue, muscle weakness, headache, dizziness or light-headedness and inability to sweat.

Everything and everybody is affected one way or another by the heat during the summertime in Mississippi. The most important thing that we can do to mange heat-related risk is to be prepared and try to prevent damage.

» Peyton Smith  is a Risk Advisor with SouthGroup Insurance and can be reached at 601-326-5312 or peyton.smith@southgroup.net 


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