Keep your cool in the heat
Posted July 9, 2011
Imagine ... you’re up against deadlines, the work is physically demanding, and the heat index is projected to reach 105oF. How can you protect your employees from heat illness, while making sure that the work is completed on time? Keep your cool and take control of the situation by employing engineering and work practice controls, and training employees on the signs of heat illness.
Controlling exposure to the heat can be accomplished through a combination of three general areas: engineering controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), and work practices.
- Air cooling
- Air circulation
- Shielding from radiant heat sources
- Insulating radiant heat sources.
Another area of engineering control would be to use power assists and tools that reduce the physical demands placed on the employee — less metabolic energy used for the job means less risk of overexposure to heat.
Personal protective equipment
Sometimes heavy clothing is required to protect a person against contact with hot materials or surfaces. Impermeable chemical protective clothing is another example of clothing used for protection which can contribute to heat exposure.
There are specialized types of PPE that can be worn under other types of protective clothing to cool the body. Ice vests have many pockets where ice packets can be inserted. Water-cooled garments have a battery-driven pump that circulates coolant through chambers in the clothing. Another system uses an air supply to circulate air around workers in impermeable suits.
Work practice control
Work practices that help control exposure to the heat include:
- Using intermittent rest periods to recover from the heat.
- Drinking 5 to 7 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes to replenish body fluids.
- Using relief workers.
- Using the buddy system (work in pairs) when working in hot conditions.
- Pacing the work, or reducing the physical demands of the work.
- Providing cool recovery or shaded rest areas.
- Scheduling work for cooler times of the day or when heat producing equipment isn't being operated.
- Wearing light, loose-fitting, breathable (like cotton) clothing.
Symptoms and response
There are many signs and symptoms that employees should be aware of when it comes to excessive heat exposure. However, the two most life-threatening illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion symptoms:
- Physically weak, fatigued, or faint.
- Giddy, irritable, or mental confused.
- Headache, dizziness, and/or lightheadedness.
- Continuous sweating.
- Clammy/moist skin.
- Body temperature remains normal.
- Vomiting or loss of consciousness.
- Rest in shade.
- Drink 5 to 7 ounces of fluids every 15 to 20 minutes to replenish body fluids.
- Seek medical attention, if severe.
Heat stroke symptoms:
- Skin is hot and dry with no perspiration.
- Skin appears red in color, resembling a sunburn.
- Body temperature is above 103oF.
- Mentally confused or delirious.
- Convulsive or unconscious.
- Seek immediate treatment by medical professionals.
- Remove to a cool, shaded area.
- Soak clothing with cool water.
- Fan body vigorously.
- Never leave unattended.
Learn more about heat stress solutions.
J. J. Keller's KellerOnline® is the online safety management tool used by more than 19,000 safety professionals to manage their safety processes.
J. J. Keller's FREE Workplace SafetyClicks™ email newsletter brings quick-read workplace safety and compliance news right to your email box.