It’s spring and the days are growing longer. Soon, the temperatures will begin to reach dangerous levels in many parts of the country. Occupational heat exposure and prevention is a topic that should be given attention in many industries. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity or strenuous activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.
When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. As body temperature rises, the skin is not able to lose its heat and sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. However, sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation and if the fluids/salts that are lost are adequately replaced. Excessive exposure to heat can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.
Ways to beat the heat
Proactive measures are the best way to reduce the exposures of heat-related illnesses. Engineering controls such as air conditioning, cooling fans and insulation of hot surfaces are the best way to prevent heat exposures. Job specific work practices are another effective way to reduce the likelihood of heat illnesses. These can include practices such as acclimation of workers, availability of drinking water, shade and reduce physically demanding jobs during hot weather.
Employees should be trained on the hazards of heat exposure and prevention. This training should include:
- Risk factors for heat-related illness
- Different types of heat-related illness and how to recognize them
- Prevention procedures
- Importance of drinking water
- Importance of acclimatization
- Procedures for responding to heat-related illness
- Company program
Employers can reduce the likelihood of heat-related illness with an effective program. By implementing a program that addresses heat-related illnesses, employees will be safer and more productive.
For more ways protect your outdoor workers from heat-related illness, watch the Beat the Heat and Keep Your Cool: Outdoors webinar.