BEAT THE HEAT: KEYS TO PROTECT YOUR EMPLOYEES
The hottest season is upon us, and that means workers are exposed to stifling outdoor temperatures, while on the job and similar dangers in hot indoor environments. Operations involving high-air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat related illness.
Heat related illnesses, including heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke are caused by prolonged or intense exposure to hot temperatures. As your body works to cool itself under extreme heat, blood rushes to the surface of your skin and as a result less blood reaches your brain, muscles and other organs. This can interfere with both your physical strength and mental capacity and if not identified and treated properly can lead to death.
In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat related illness and 18 died from heat stroke on the job. One of the saddest parts of this statistic is that heat illnesses and deaths are preventable. By establishing a comprehensive heat illness prevention program you can protect your employees from serious injury and death.
Below are some keys to help protect your employees from the heat:
Take Preventative Steps
If your workers are exposed to prolonged and intense heat you must provide the proper protection and take the necessary steps to prevent injury and illness.
1) Encourage employees to wear loose fitting, breathable and light colored clothing.
2) Provide equipment such as cooling vests to maintain a consistent body temperature.
3) Keep workers hydrated by providing cool water near break areas and encourage workers to drink even if they are not thirsty.
4) Schedule regular breaks in shady areas or in air conditioned rooms to help workers recover from sun and heat exposure.
5) Implement work cycles to limit prolonged exposure and use the buddy system to monitor worker conditions. Identify and Understand the Warning Signs
Workers who are exposed to intense or prolonged heat are susceptible to heat related illness and will often present some of the symptoms listed below:
- Headaches - Dizziness - Disorientation - Mood swings - Rapid heart rate - Dark yellow urine (dehydration) - Redness of skin - Swollen lips - Chills
Workers should be trained on how to identify these symptoms and what to do if they see a co-worker experiencing these symptoms. Some initial actions include taking that worker to a cool place, providing water right away and seeking medical attention. Monitor Heat Levels
It is important to regularly monitor temperature and humidity levels in and around work areas. By monitoring changes in temperature of both the environment and the worker you can be alerted to a potential emergency. New technology that includes body-worn sensor sharing, location-based-services and proximity services provide insights to potential heat related threats to your workers. This new technology is effective for monitoring workers and enables supervisors both in the field and in centralized monitoring centers to have full awareness of heat risk.