Some like it hot, but workers still need protection from heat illnesses
Posted July 10, 2018
As summer heats up, workers’ risk of heat-related illnesses increases. OSHA and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are reminding employers to take steps to protect workers from heat stress. The agencies are now offering a 2011 infosheet on “Protecting Workers from Heat Illness” in EPUB format. The new format allows employers to download and read the information on digital devices such as e-readers, cell phones, tablets, and computers.
Heat stress occurs when the body cannot maintain a normal temperature in the heat, which can lead to heat-related illnesses and even death. Risk factors include:
- High temperatures and humidity,
- Direct sun exposure,
- Limited air movement,
- Not drinking enough fluids,
- Physical exertion,
- Heavy personal protective clothing and equipment,
- Poor physical conditioning or medical conditions,
- Certain medications,
- Lack of acclimatizing,
- Previous heat-related illness,
- Being 55 years of age and older, and
- Indoor exposures to other sources of radiant heat.
Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, is a life-threatening medical emergency. Symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, high body temperature, and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. Someone suffering from heat stroke needs medical attention immediately.
Heat exhaustion is also a serious condition. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, heavy sweating, and elevated body temperature. Workers showing signs of heat exhaustion should be taken to a clinic or emergency room for evaluation and treatment.
Other, less severe, heat-related medical illnesses include heat cramps and heat rash.
The infosheet provides recommendations for preventing heat-related illnesses in both indoor and outdoor environments. According to the agencies, the best way to prevent heat-related illnesses is to make the work environment cooler. Other measures include training, acclimatizing workers to the heat, supplying adequate water, providing frequent rest breaks, reducing the physical demands of the job, scheduling work for cooler parts of the day, and setting up a buddy system. More complex prevention efforts may involve items such as heat shields, reflective clothing, and cooling vests.
View the original infosheet and the link to the new EPUB format.
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