Protect Your Employees from Heat Stress
The Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 105th edition, estimates that 5 to 10 million workers are exposed to heat illness annually. Heat illnesses (such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps) are caused by hot environments and are preventable occupational health hazards.
Heat illness results when the body is out of heat balance. Heat balance means that the heat the body produces equals the heat it loses. When the body is out of heat balance, it produces and retains more heat than it loses causing heat illness. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.
The steps to protect employees from heat illness are the same type of steps to follow to address other hazards in the workplace. These are:
- Develop an illness prevention plan for outdoor work based on both the environmental and personal risk factors.
- Train your workers how to recognize and prevent heat-related illness.
- Track and monitor daily the environmental risk factors (such as the heat index) and communicate the required precautions to workers.
- Implement your plan and revise the plan, as needed, throughout the summer.
OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html) is a free App that calculates the heat index for their worksite and then provides reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness. It is a useful tool for workers and supervisors who work in the heat. This Smartphone App is available for Android and iPhone download.
Please see the OSHA Web site (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html) for more information regarding Heat Stress.