Summer officially arrived on June 21 this year. Numerous locations throughout the US and Canada have already experienced record high temperatures. Now is a good time to think about how to keep employees safe from heat stress and help them recognize the hazards of working in extreme temperatures.
Employees at elevated risk include those who work in hot, humid conditions, especially if they are performing heavy work while wearing bulky, personal protective equipment or clothing. Common high-risk industries for heat-related illnesses are construction; transportation and utilities; agriculture; building and grounds maintenance; landscaping services; and support activities for oil and gas operations.
OSHA recommends remembering three words: Water, Rest, and Shade. Employees following these precautions may be protected from injury or even death.
The sun brings special hazards for those working outdoors. Here are some precautions that just may save a life.
- Drink small amounts of water frequently, even if you are not thirsty.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing—cotton is good.
- Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
- Eat smaller meals before work activity.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol or large amounts of sugar.
- Work in the shade, when possible.
- Find out from your healthcare provider if your medications and heat don’t mix.
- Know that equipment such as respirators or other protective equipment can increase heat stress.
- Learn the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on co-workers.
The combination of heat, humidity, and physical labor can lead to fatalities. The two most serious forms of heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and heat stroke, which could be fatal. Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke need immediate attention. Recognizing those warning signs and taking quick action can make a difference in preventing a fatality. Employers and employees should know the potential hazards in their workplaces and how to manage them.
There is a tremendous effort from OSHA this year to combat the dangers of heat-related illness. They have recently released a new app that allows any worker or supervisor with a smartphone to calculate the heat index for their work and are then given a risk level. Additionally, the app can provide you reminders about protective measures that should be taken to help prevent heat-related illnesses.
It is one thing to provide your employees with the tools to keep them safe, but truly creating a safe workplace takes training of all employees including management. Skillsoft provides a complete collection of Safety and Health topics, including training on Heat Stress Recognition and Prevention and First Aid. To learn more about how Skillsoft’s training helps to create safe workplaces, you can visit our website: http://www.skillsoftcompliance.com/
Donna McEntee is Practice Manager, ES&H solutions, Skillsoft