Take Steps to Prevent Employee Heat Stress

August 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

As the temperature rises, make sure your workers stay healthy and avoid heat stress.
Any work environment with high temperature and high humidity, where physical work is being performed, is a prime breeding ground for heat-related illness. But you need to take into account other factors as well.
For example, working around hot equipment or processes that generate heat adds to the effect of the temperature in the outside environment, compounding the heat stress workers face. So does stale, stagnant air, or a hot wind. And workers who have to wear hot, heavy PPE and protective clothing on the job are also at greater risk of heat illness.
Acclimatization is another important issue. It can take a worker 5 to 7 days to become conditioned to working in the heat. When a sudden heat wave strikes, employees don’t have time to get used to the heat, and that makes them more susceptible to heat sickness.
Consider individual factors, too. For example, older workers are often at greater risk than younger workers. So are employees who are overweight, pregnant, physically unfit, inadequately rested, or sick. And workers who’ve consumed alcohol after work are more likely to be dehydrated the next day and are therefore more susceptible to heat illness.
How to Keep Workers Safe and Healthy
There’s a lot you and your company’s supervisors can do to reduce the risk of heat-related safety and health problems. OSHA recommends these simple precautions:
• Consider a worker’s physical fitness to work in a hot environment.
• Use engineering controls such as ventilation and spot-cooling by local exhaust to keep workers cool.
• Have employees work in pairs to reduce stress and so that they can keep an eye on each other’s physical condition.
• Provide plenty of drinking water and encourage workers to drink fluids throughout their shift.
• Avoid scheduling the heaviest work on the hottest days or at the hottest time of the day.
• Alternate work and rest periods in very hot weather, making sure workers have a cool, shady place to take their breaks.
• Provide more frequent breaks for employees who have to wear hot, heavy PPE or protective clothing, or who work around heat-generating equipment and processes.
• Monitor temperatures and check on workers regularly to make sure they are successfully coping with the heat. Look for symptoms of heat stress.
• Train workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat illness.
The combination of heat, humidity, and human labor can be deadly. That’s why you and your employees need to take precautions to prevent heat-related accidents and illness. You’ll not only be keeping your workers safe and healthy, you’ll also be keeping them on the job where you need them, even on the hottest days this summer.

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