The Safe Shop
Can You Beat the Heat?
Watch for the Warning Signs This Summer.
Photo by Geratt / Pixabay
Every year thousands of workers become sick and even die from exposure to heat. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) doesn’t have a specific regulation for heat. But because heat stress is known as a serious hazard, workers are protected under the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. This clause states the employer must provide “employment free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
Workers generate body heat through normal work activities and the body releases heat by sweating. Of course, this increases during the summer, but the problem isn’t more sweat.
During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough and body temperature can rise to dangerous levels. This is intensified during times of exertion and/or while wearing insulating clothing.
Some workers might be at greater risk than others until they become acclimatized to working in hot conditions such as new workers, workers returning from work after being off for a week or more and all workers during an extreme ambient temperature heat waves.
If workers do not understand the effects of heat on the body and take proper precautions serious heat illness and even death can occur.
Stage 1: Heat Cramps
Severe cramps muscle in the legs and abdomen occur with excessive sweating. It’s typically treated by moving to a cool, shaded place and drinking small amounts of water. If cramps don’t subside, seek medical treatment.
Stage 2: Heat Exhaustion
More serious than heat cramps, the symptoms include: excessive sweating, dilated pupils, complaints of dizziness, blurred vision, headaches and cramps. The person may also have cool, clammy skin, a weak rapid pulse, rapid shallow breathing, a bout of vomiting and possibly go unconscious,
No small sips at this stage; give the person water to drink, as much as they will take. (However, if they vomit, don’t give them anything by mouth and seek medical attention right away.)
Place them laying down with the feet elevated in a cool place and remove any excessive clothing and loosen clothing around the neck and waist. If they go unconscious, seek immediate medical treatment.
Stage 3: Heatstroke
This is a life-threatening condition, and without immediate action heatstroke can result in permanent brain damage or death. Symptoms include a rapid and full pulse that gets weaker and harder to feel in later stages, noisy breathing, flushed skin, hot-and-dry skin or hot-and-sweaty skin (when heatstroke is related to exertion), restlessness, headache, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, convulsions and eventually, unconsciousness.
If heatstroke is suspected, seek immediate medical treatment.
From the OSHA Files
A 34-year-old male laborer collapsed while working on a 24’ scaffold. EMS recorded the man’s body temperature on-site as 107°F. He died the next day at the hospital of hypothermia, with an internal body temperature of 108°F (42.4°C).
The worker experienced excessive ambient heat on the job while moving stone and scaffold boards, and maintaining a supply of mortar.
Fatal conditions don’t require record triple-digit heat. Temperatures exceeding 91°F were recorded on the date that felled the worker.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto - Pexels
Are You at Risk?
Your risk of heat stress depends on many things. These include: • Your physical condition; • The weather (temperature, humidity); • How much clothing you have on; • How fast you must move or how much weight you must lift; • If you are near a fan or there is a breeze; and • If you are in the sun...
You can prevent heat illness by taking precautions. Remember these best practices that can also make you a lot more comfortable (and productive) in hot summer weather:
Employers should have a written heat-illness-prevention plan and implement and train employees on the plan provisions. OSHA offers a general guide at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/osha_heattraining_guide_0411.pdf
1. Drink when you are thirsty.
2. Keep taking rest breaks. Rest in a cool, shady spot. Use fans.
3. Wear light-colored clothing made of cotton.
4. Do the heaviest work in the coolest time of the day.
5. Work in the shade
6. For heavy work in hot areas, take turns with other workers,.
7. If you travel to a warm area for a new job, acclimate yourself. Get used to the heat. Be extra careful the first two weeks on the job.
8. If you work in protective clothing, you need more rest breaks.
9. You may also need to check your temperature and heart rate.
How can heat illness be prevented? Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade. Drinking water often, taking breaks, and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness.
It’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and your co-workers during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do — acting quickly can save lives!
(Adapted from http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html#affected)
Reminder: Safety is the responsibility of both management and employees!
The information herein is provided by the Natural Stone Institute as a general summary for use in job site toolbox talks and is provided to augment and not substitute for or replace required training under any applicable local, state or federal workplace statute, law or regulation. It is the user’s responsibility to ensure this content is consistent with job site requirements and applicable statutes, laws or regulations prior to use and make any required additions or changes.
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