Promoting Heat Safety for your Outdoor Workers
After a cool and rainy start, July in the Midwest is finally starting to feel like July in the Midwest. Last week saw a wave of extreme heat across the south, and today’s forecast (Friday 7/24/2015) calls for 100+degree temperatures in 10 states. And as of this morning, the 10 day forecast from the National Weather Service calls for a period of above normal temperatures affecting 42 of the lower 48 states.
So now is probably a great time to talk about heat safety.
We’ve already been looking at heat safety for the past few weeks, as OSHA makes its mid-season educational push to prevent heat-related illness in outdoor workers. According to OSHA “Industries most affected by heat-related illness are: construction; trade, transportation and utilities; agriculture; building, grounds maintenance; landscaping services; and support activities for oil and gas operations.”
Since our Landscape, Asphalt and Maintenance customers are among the most-impacted industries, here are a series of tips and resources for preventing heat related illness in your company this summer.
6 Easy to remember tips to prevent heat related illness and fatalities:
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
- Rest in the shade to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers.
- “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.
The human body is very adaptable and can tolerate the heat, but it takes some time to acclimatize. For workers new to working in the heat or returning from more than a week off, and for all workers on the first day of a sudden heat wave, the risk is greatest.
It’s important to allow new and returning workers to get used to the heat gradually, and it’s important to take extra precautions for all workers during abnormal periods of extremely high heat index.
Unacclimatized = At Risk:
As an example, Cal/OSHA investigated 25 incidents of heat-related illness in 2005. In almost half of the cases, the worker involved was on their first day of work and in 80% of the cases the worker involved had only been on the job for four or fewer days.
That’s why it’s important to gradually increase the workload or allow more frequent breaks to help new workers and those returning to a job after time away build up a tolerance for hot conditions.
Risk factors for heat-related illness are primarily driven by the Heat Index, a calculation of temperature and humidity that measures environmental factors limiting the human body’s ability to cool itself.
The Impact of the Sun:
Also, working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep this in mind and plan additional precautions for working in these conditions.
Keeping aware of risk factors and taking preventative measures can keep your workers safe from heat-related illness. Here are some more tools that can help you with education and prevention
OSHA’s heat illness prevention homepage:
- In English – https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html
- En Español https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/spanish/index_sp.html
Protective measures recommended for each heat index level
Heat Index Smartphone App: App calculates heat index for current location and provides guidance to prevent illness.
Fast Facts for Protecting Yourself from Heat Stress – From the Centers for Disease Control
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