As the sweltering summer months begin to settle in, employers are encouraged to remember heat safety training for their employees.
According to a OSHA Regional News Release from this summer, heat illness is a legitimate concern when it comes to employees in D.C., and across the United States. Many employees are exposed to hot indoor and outdoor environments involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct contact with hot objects and strenuous physical activity.
The workplaces that may expose workers to these conditions include ceramic plants and commercial kitchens, as well as farms and construction sites.
2015 is the fifth year OSHA has launched the Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Workers.
A recent study of 2014 heat-related illnesses and deaths found that nine deaths occurred within the first three days of working on a job, and four occurred on the employee’s first day. Of the 20 cases that were studied, heat illness prevention programs were found to be incomplete or completely absent.
When the air temperature becomes close to or warmer than the normal body temperature, cooling off the body becomes more difficult. Blood circulation near the skin has difficulty losing heat, and sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. If the body is unable to sweat due to weather conditions or previous medical conditions, the excess heat will be stored.
If this happens, the affected person can become dizzy, lose concentration and will likely faint. Excessive exposure can cause a range of heat-related illnesses including heat exhaustion, cramps, rashes and heat stroke. If not treated immediately, heat stroke can result in death.
Acclimatization to heat in terms of new employees is one of the most important parts of new hire training. Workers must understand the importance of gradually building up workloads and exposure to heat by remembering three key ideas. At the heart of the Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Workers is: “Water. Shade. Rest.”
In addition to this campaign, it is recommended that employers implement their own prevention programs including the following information:
- Emergency planning to prevent heat-related fatalities
- Formal acclimatization program
- Hazard identification
- Modified work schedules as necessary
- Understanding signs of heat-related adverse health symptoms.
Keep employees cool, whether inside or outside, with the following OSHA tips in mind:
- Drink water every 15 minutes. Even if employees are not thirsty, they must stay hydrated regardless.
- Ease employees into a workload if they are new to the job.
- Keep an eye out for fellow workers.
- Rest in the shade or a cooler area to reduce body temperature.
- Wear protective, light-colored clothing if outside.
View all courses related to Heat Stress here.