The summer season is upon us, and that means stifling outdoor temperatures and a dangerous increase in heat-related workplace safety hazards.
Every year, thousands of workers nationwide suffer from serious heat-related illnesses (HRI). These HRIs, when not addressed properly through prevention and protection tactics, quickly turn from heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Heat stroke is a very dire, fatal level of HRI and has killed, on average, 30 people every year since 2003.
Although tens of thousands of workers have suffered serious heat-related illnesses and hundreds have died over the last decade, we must remember that all of these incidents were 100% preventable.
Here’s what you need to know to protect your employees who face long hours in high-risk, heat-stress situations:
Understand The Five Categories Of Heat-Related Illness
If you know the warning signs of each, you have a better chance of taking care of any employee suffering from heat stress so they escape serious disabilities or even death.
1. Heat Rash -- Caused by skin being constantly wet from sweat and plugged sweat glands, this condition appears as a raised, red blistery rash.
2. Heat Cramps -- Caused by excessive loss of water and electrolytes, with cramps usually occurring in the legs or abdomen.
3. Heat Syncope -- Caused by prolonged standing or sudden rising from a sitting or laying position, includes fainting or dizziness.
4. Heat Exhaustion -- Symptoms are pale skin, excessive sweating, headache, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and dizziness, with the potential for fainting.
5. Heat Stroke -- Symptoms are dry hot skin and a very high body temp, skin is red but without sweat, and the person suffering a heat stroke is incoherent or unconscious.
It’s important to mention that some workers are at a greater risk than others for HRI’s. These employees include people who are over 65 years of age, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.
Know The Early Warning Signs And Risk Factors
The following is a list of early warning signs and risk factors for HRIs. If you see a worker experiencing any of these symptoms, they should be taken to a cool place to rest and be provided with water right away. They should also be given immediate medical attention.
Early Warning Signs Of HRI:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Mood swings
- Rapid heart rate
- Dark yellow urine (dehydration)
- Redness of skin
- Swollen lips
Environmental And Job-Related Risk Factors:
- High air temperatures
- Direct exposure to sunlight
- High humidity
- Radiant heat
- Lack of air movement
- Lack of water or other fluids to rehydrate
- High work intensity
- Heavy and/or non-breathable clothing
- Long work hours
Jobs that potentially put workers at risk of HRI’s are firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers and factory workers among others.
Protect Employees From HRI’s By Taking Preventative Action
The following is a comprehensive list of tips to tackle the risks of heat-stress to ensure summertime workplace safety:
- Train and educate workers and supervisors on risk factors and early warning signs of HRI’s
- Provide cool drinking water near work areas and promote regular hydration before feeling thirsty
- Monitor temperature and humidity levels near work areas
- Implement a heat management program so every one knows what to do in the event of an emergency
- Use work cycles to limit prolonged exposure to hot work areas and allow workers routine breaks in the shade
- Use the “buddy system” to monitor worker conditions
- Use safety supplies such as cooling vests, especially under heavy protective gear
- Acclimate workers by exposing them for progressively long periods of time to hot work environments
- Schedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day
- Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar
With temperatures rising, now is the time to start training employees on the safety hazards of HRI’s and implementing preventative measures for your workers who are exposed to extreme heat conditions. Through heat stress knowledge and tactics, you ensure the health and safety of your workers over the coming summer months.
Ready to learn more about how to prevent the safety hazards of heat-related illness? Call 800-523-5367 or click on the button below to speak with a safety specialist at Arbill.