Keeping It Cool When Temperatures Heat Up
June - National Safety Month
Since summer is just around the corner, now is the time to make sure employees are safe from the effects of heat-related illness. The body only functions well if its internal temperature stays within 98.6 and 100.4 degrees (F). Anything higher can result in heat stress, which will manifest itself as a heat-related illness with the accompanying symptoms below:
Heat stroke occurs when the body can no longer regulate its own temperature. It is the most severe heat-related illness. The body loses its ability to cool itself because temperature rises too rapidly, resulting in temperatures exceeding 104 degrees (F). Symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Heat stroke can result in death or disability if medical attention is not sought immediately.
Heat exhaustion is caused by significant loss of salt and water, resulting in symptoms such as confusion, cramps, dizziness, headache, heavy sweating, irritability, thirst, and weakness. The body temperature rises above 100.4 degrees (F).
Rhabdomyloysis is a rare condition which can be brought on by excessive exposure to heat. It causes the breakdown, rupture, and death of muscle. This, in turn, can cause irregular heart rhythms, seizures, and kidney damage.
Heat Syncope (Fainting)
This can occur after standing for prolonged periods of time in the heat or from rising suddenly from a sitting position. If a body is dehydrated and not properly acclimated to the heat, fainting may result.
Heat cramps occur when the body loses too much salt and fluid through sweating, thus producing muscle pains.
Just as the name suggests, heat rash looks like a red cluster-like rash of pimples and/or small blisters, often appearing on the neck, upper chest, groin, under breasts or on elbow creases. It is caused by excessive sweating.
How to Prevent Heat Illnesses in the Workplace
As devastating as the effects of heat can be on the body, the good news is they can be prevented in the workplace by simply implementing proper controls. A Heat Illness Prevention Program, put in place by someone trained to manage it, should include the following:
Engineering Controls (which regulate the workplace environment):
Using air conditioning, fans, or forced air ventilation
Insulating hot surfaces
Decreasing water vapor pressure
Redirecting radiant heat by providing reflective or heat-absorbing shields
Work Practice Controls (which regulate how the workplace is run):
Limiting time in the heat and increasing recovery time in a cool environment (air-conditioned if possible)
Increasing the number of workers per shift, rotating workers, or splitting shifts
Providing cool water and giving ample time for breaks. Workers need to drink one liter of water for every hour worked in heated conditions.
Implementing a buddy system to monitor for signs and symptoms of heat fatigue
Reducing the metabolic demands of the job
Providing and/or requiring specialized clothing, such as breathable, light-colored clothing, hats, and sunglasses
Providing and/or requiring the use of sunscreen with a minimum SPF 15. SPF does not provide protection, however, against UVA. Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone block UVA rays as well as Mexoryl and Parsol 1789.
Utilizing a heat alert/hazard identification program. Keep in mind that full sunlight exposure can increase heat index values by up to 15 degrees F.
Practicing emergency planning and response
Stopping work if control methods are inadequate or when the risk of heat illness is very high
Heat Stress Training for Employees:
Training workers to recognize signs of heat stress, monitor weather, and administer first aid
Acclimatization means gradually increasing workloads and exposure (along with breaks for water and rest) in order to acclimate the body to the change in temperature and allow the body to build a tolerance to working in it. Note that full acclimatization may take up to 14 days.
Hydration and Rest:
Water should be cool, easily accessible, and consumption must be encouraged
Employees should avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages which dehydrate the body
Encourage the drinking of sports drinks which replace lost electrolytes
With proper precautions and trained, safety-conscious staff, heat-related illnesses can be avoided. Here's to a safe summer from SEEK Careers and Staffing!
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