How to prevent heat illness this summer
By Rich Gaul, Safety Technical Advisor
Whether you work outside in the hot summer sun or indoors in hot humid conditions, excessive heat can be dangerous. Extreme heat was the third highest weather-related cause of death in 2019 according to the National Weather Service. People who are overweight, older than 65, have high blood pressure, or take certain medications are more susceptible to heat-related illness. When you combine high temperature, high humidity, and strenuous physical activities, the risk of heat illnesses increases dramatically.
With the hot summer days approaching, now is the time to prepare. A 2016 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) study on heat enforcement cases in 2012 and 2013 found the employers cited lacked basic heat prevention steps such as providing adequate drinking water, shade, training, failed to acclimatize workers, and did not adjust work/rest cycles during high heat periods.
A heat illness prevention plan should include the following:
- Training for employees on heat stress awareness including signs and symptoms of heat illness.
- Acclimatize workers by gradually increasing exposure to high heat and humidity environments.
- Provide easy access to adequate amounts of drinking water and encourage consumption.
- Providing adequate work/rest cycles and access to shaded, cooler locations.
- Monitoring weather for high heat index warnings and adjusting work schedules accordingly.
- Monitoring workers for signs and symptoms of heat illness and encouraing them to speak up if they or a coworker are experiencing signs or symptoms.
- Having an emergency medical response plan in place in case of heat illness.
Most people look forward to enjoying the warm summer months. With a little planning , you can ensure your employees stay safe this summer.
For more information about heat illness prevention, attend BWC’s virtual training Thermal Stress, onJune 2, 2022 or read BWC’s Heat Stress Safety Talk. The OSHA website provides workers and employers with additional information and resources on heat illnesses and how to prevent it. QuickCards are available in English and Spanish.