Winter is coming! Protect your workers from icy perils

By Rich Gaul, BWC Safety Technical Adviser

Winter is right around the corner. Are you and your employees ready for the harsh conditions of the season?

Taking some simple steps can help protect your employees from ailments caused by exposure to low temperatures, wind, and moisture.

The two primary health risks in cold weather are hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can replace it, causing your core body temperature to drop below 95 F. Frostbite is a condition where human tissue freezes. Frostbite most commonly affects the face, ears, fingers, and toes.

Early warning signs of hypothermia include feeling extremely cold, shivering, cold or numb fingertips or toes, impaired fine-motor control, slurred speech, confusion or disorientation, and drowsiness.

Early warning signs of frostbite include skin that appears slightly swollen, waxy looking and feels cold or numb. More severe frostbite affects deeper layers of tissue. Skin may become completely numb and blister. Deep tissue, including muscle, blood vessels and bone may freeze and turn black.

Treatment: If someone is experiencing symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite, get the person to a warm, dry environment; remove any wet clothing; wrap them in dry warm blankets or towels; remove any jewelry or constrictive clothing that could restrict blood flow; submerge mild frostbite areas in lukewarm water (100-105 F); have them drink warm sweet liquids; monitor their condition closely and call for emergency medical attention if needed.

Prevention – employers should:

  • Train employees on symptoms and prevention measures for cold stress and frostbite, the importance of self-monitoring, and first aid procedures.
  • Provide engineering controls like wind chill shields, radiant heaters, and de-icing materials.
  • Consider protective clothing that provides warmth such as loose-fitting layers, a hat that covers the ears, mittens/gloves, thick wool socks, and waterproof boots.
  • Implement safe work practices such as:
    • Scheduling routine maintenance and repairs in summer months.
    • Limiting time outdoors and scheduling jobs in the warmer part of the day.
    • Monitoring weather conditions and avoiding exposure to extremely cold temperatures.
    • Providing warm liquids to drink and warming areas for use during breaks.
    • Acclimatizing employees gradually to cold environments.
    • Monitoring employees and providing them means of communication.

Working in cold winter weather conditions or indoor cold environments may be unavoidable, but following the practices outlined above will help keep employees safe when they’re exposed to cold conditions.

If you have questions on improving safety, reducing risk factors, or other occupational safety and health topics, BWC is here to help. Reach out to one of our BWC safety consultants online for assistance or call 1-800-644-6292. Don’t forget to take advantage of our other safety services as well. The Division of Safety and Hygiene offers a wide range of services for all industries at no additional cost to employers, including safety education and training and the BWC safety and video library.

Have you heard? Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable

By Jeffrey Hutchins, Regional Loss Prevention Manager

Hearing loss is something that can affect any of us not only on the job, but in every aspect of our lives.

However, because noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) happens gradually over time, many of us don’t give it the attention it deserves.

That’s why the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) designates every October as National Protect Your Hearing Month. The NIDCD urges you to learn simple ways to protect yourself, your family, and co-workers from NIHL. The following simple solutions from the NIDCD can go a long way toward protecting your hearing.

Turn down the volume

Set maximum volume limits on electronics and keep the volume low on music devices and TVs. Sounds at or above 85 decibels (comparable to heavy city traffic) put you at risk for NIHL, especially if they last a long time. These days, earbuds are a common concern.

“There’s nothing wrong with earbuds that are producing sounds at a low, nontoxic level. But earbuds are bad when you turn them up too loud,” says Dr. James Battey, former director of the NIDCD. “My rule of thumb is, if an individual is standing at arm’s length from you and they can hear your earbuds…that noise is probably over 85 decibels and if delivered for a long enough time will cause noise-induced hearing loss.”

Move away from the noise

To reduce sound intensity and the impact of noise on your ears, increase the distance between you and the noise. Think of this simple step when you are near fireworks, concert speakers, or in a loud restaurant.

Wear hearing protection

Sometimes you can’t easily escape the sound, whether you’re at a movie theater, a concert, a sporting event, or a noisy work environment. Earplugs or protective earmuffs can help. There is a single number required by law on each hearing protector called the noise reduction rating. The NRR for hearing protectors can range from 17-33. The higher the NRR number, the more effective the protection. Be a good hearing health role model by wearing them yourself. If you don’t have hearing protectors, cover your ears with your hands.

In the workplace, think about the types of equipment or jobs that can cause hearing loss, such as:

  • Circular saws
  • Chain saws
  • Firing guns
  • Air-powered ejection equipment
  • Air-operated equipment without mufflers
  • Metal stamping
  • Machining operations

Once you’ve identified the potential sources of loud noises, be sure to take the proper steps to protect yourself and your co-workers from danger. The good news is NIHL is the only type of hearing loss that is completely preventable. If you understand the hazards of noise and how to practice good hearing health, you can protect your hearing for life.

BWC can help

Our industrial hygienists can help you identify NIHL hazards in your workplace with consultations. Our Hearing Conservation Program webinar can be viewed on-demand. The BWC Library also has plenty of resources, including videos, about noise and hearing conservation.

Daylight Saving Time Ends Sunday, Nov. 7.

Delia Treaster, PhD, CPE, BWC Ergonomic Technical Advisor

It’s almost time for the end of Daylight Saving Time. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7, we return to Eastern Standard Time. We gain an extra hour as we “fall back,” but despite this advantage, this biannual ritual of changing our clocks can mess with our internal clock.

When we turn the clocks back one hour this weekend, it is as if we crossed one time zone westward. For some, it may take up to a week to become accustomed to waking and sleeping one hour later. You will notice it will be lighter for your commute on Monday morning following the end of Daylight Saving Time. Conversely, it will get darker an hour earlier in the evening, so there may be less daylight for your evening commute.

Research has shown that there are more sleep disruptions in the week following the changing of the clocks. Nighttime restlessness tends to increase, resulting in poor sleep quality.. Morning “larks” are more bothered by the autumn change, while night “owls” fare worse with the spring change.

Whether you’re a “lark” or “owl”, you should expect a few restless nights following the end of Daylight Saving Time and be prepared to make some adjustments. The upcoming “fall back” will give most of us a much-needed chance to catch up on sleep, so take full advantage of that extra hour of zzz’s.

While more light may make your morning commute easier, the opposite – less light – can occur for your evening commute. Because vision may be poorer, give yourself extra following distance on the road. Be alert for cyclists or pedestrians who may be harder to see in dimmer light. Driving a little slower will give you more time to react to unexpected events.

As your body slowly adjusts to the new hours of waking and sleeping, you should be able to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep. You’ll become accustomed to the new lighting levels for the morning and evening drives. That is, until next spring, when we again change our clocks and start the readjustment period all over again!

Reducing Overexertion Injuries

By Delia E. Treaster, Ph.D., CPE, Ergonomic Technical Advisor

In recognition of National Ergonomics Month, this blog is part one of a two-part series focusing on ergonomics in the workplace

Overexertion injuries cost Ohio employers nearly $134 million and accounted for almost 24% of accepted BWC claims in 2019.  An overexertion can occur when you push yourself too hard and work beyond your physical capability. They’re most common in the service and manufacturing industries, but they occur in all private and public sectors.

Often called MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders), many overexertion injuries damage soft tissues in the lower back and shoulders. Soft tissue injuries are infamous for their long recovery time and high probability for re-injury.

Awkward postures and repetitive motions are known risk factors for overexertions, but the most significant risk factor is excessive force. Manual tasks, such as lifting or working overhead, often require high force exertions. If done repeatedly, this kind of work can cause cumulative damage to back and shoulder joints.

What Works

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a longstanding recommendation to use engineering and administrative controls as part of a comprehensive ergonomic program to reduce overexertion injuries. This approach is backed by multiple research studies that confirm the role of workplace risk factors in the development of musculoskeletal injuries of the soft tissues.

Engineering controls, which are physical changes that reduce the physical strain on workers’ bodies, are the preferred method for controlling the escalating workers’ compensation costs of overexertion injuries. Reducing or eliminating the physical factors benefits all workers who perform the job. Examples of engineering controls are reducing the weight of the load that the worker lifts or eliminating the manual lift by using a mechanical lifting device such as a hoist.

Where engineering controls are impractical or inadequately reduce the risk, administrative controls such as job rotation, training, or rest breaks, may lower the risk sufficiently to protect an individual worker. However, administrative controls must be diligently maintained to ensure continued protection against MSDs.

Companies often use an ergonomic consultant to conduct ergonomic evaluations of “problem” jobs – those with high rates of injury, defects or turnover – and recommend ergonomic solutions to improve the jobs. This approach allows a company with limited ergonomic expertise to quickly identify fixes for the most problematic jobs. But since outside ergonomists lack the in-depth understanding of the job and knowledge of the company resources and procedures, their recommendations may not be practical or feasible.

Participatory Ergonomics

A more effective approach, but one requiring more time and greater upfront investment of resources, is to develop an in-house ergonomics team to tackle problem jobs. Comprising both workers and management, such an interdisciplinary team has deep knowledge of the jobs, tools and equipment, workflow, supply chain logistics, and operational constraints such as customer requirements. When given basic ergonomic training that includes an understanding of MSDs, the team can devise effective engineering solutions that reduce physical risk factors while also meeting production demands. Iterative engineering can fine-tune the ergonomic solutions to account for unforeseen factors or changes in the production environment.

One of the largest employers in the world, the U.S. Postal Service, initiated a grassroots ergonomic process in mail processing plants across the United States. The Ergonomic Risk Reduction Process (ERRP) was established in 2003 in response to a confluence of factors, including an aging workforce, escalating musculoskeletal injuries, and rising workers’ compensation costs. Cross-functional teams were formed in-house and trained by an ergonomist. These teams focused on identifying and reducing risk factors of jobs that were known to be high risk for MSDs. Within three years, the Postal Service saw a 19% reduction in MSD rates at plants where ERRP had been ongoing for at least a year. The average cost of the ergonomic interventions was a mere $1700, and when compared to the average cost of $6000 for a WC claim for an MSD, the ROI (return on investment) for ergonomics is obvious.

A BWC ergonomist can help you develop an in-house ergonomics team that can address problem jobs. Reach out to one of our BWC safety consultants or call 1-800-644-6292. Don’t forget to take advantage of our other safety services as well. The Division of Safety and Hygiene offers a wide range of services for all industries at no additional cost to employers, including safety education and training and the BWC safety and video library.

Agriculture safety means continuous focus on doing the right thing

By Bruce Loughner, CSP, Technical Safety Resource Consultant

The annual Farm Science Review serves as a reminder to protect farm workers from hazards that may lead to injury or death. The event, sponsored by The Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Science, focuses on education in the agricultural industry.

Whether you plan to attend Farm Science Review this week or want to brush up on agricultural safety from home, we’ve put together some resources to help.

Farm hazards and controls

Overexertion is the leading accident type on most types of farms. Strains and sprains can result in serious injuries. These are typically caused by lifting, pulling, pushing, and carrying activities. To avoid overexertion:

  • Take frequent breaks during periods of heavy exertion.
  • Adjust work to waist to shoulder level.
  • Consider heat stress mitigation including rest periods.
  • Use specialized mechanical lifting equipment.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for using equipment.
  • Simplify or combine processes to reduce the amount of handling and repositioning.
  • Make sure you have enough working space to allow for good body positioning. Use portable positioning blocks, support surfaces, pry bars, levers, clamps, vises, chains, slings, rollers, etc. to minimize manual force.
  • Use slings, handholds, or other means of ensuring good grip and control.
  • Always get help when lifting or repositioning heavy items.

Working with machinery can also lead to potential hazards. For example, hearing loss may result from exposure to loud farm equipment. Also, entanglement, or getting caught in a machine, may lead to severe injury or death. To prevent these hazards:

  • Use hearing protection such as ear plugs or muffs to prevent hearing loss.
  • Maintain equipment according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Perform a pre-operational service check before operating machinery and correct any problems before starting. Always read and follow all instructions in the operator’s manuals.
  • Ensure appropriate training before operating. 
  • Use guarding supplied by the manufacturer.  
  • Always use the rollover protective system with tractors and mowers. Tractor rollover is another leading cause of death on farms.
  • Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, aprons, and helmets. Wear proper clothing for the task such as long pants, work boots, gloves, and long sleeves. Do not wear items that could become entangled in moving machine parts such as jewelry, drawstrings, ties, or loose clothing.
  • Tie back or otherwise secure loose hair but be aware that even short or tied-back hair may become entangled in moving equipment.

In addition to these tips, BWC’s Division of Safety & Hygiene (DSH) recommends creating a culture of safety within your organization. Simple actions, like starting every meeting with a short safety topic, can help to keep everyone’s mind on safety.

DSH resources

In July 2021, BWC and the Ohio On-Site Consultation Program joined an alliance with the Ohio Agribusiness Association and the four Ohio area offices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to raise awareness and develop safety education and training specific to the Ohio agribusiness industry. Stay tuned for future safety education and training specific to the Ohio agribusiness industry.

If you have questions on improving safety, reducing risk factors, or other occupational safety and health topics, BWC is here to help. Reach out to one of our BWC safety consultants online for assistance or call 1-800-644-6292. Don’t forget to take advantage of our other safety services as well. DSH offers a wide range of services for all industries at no additional cost to employers, including safety education and training and the BWC safety and video library.

We also have additional resources available online for farmers:

Spine Research Institute partnership aims to prevent back injuries

By Mike Lampl, Research and Grants Director

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries account for nearly 20% of all injuries and illnesses in the workplace. Because of the prevalence of back-related injuries, BWC has been devoted to preventing and treating them for many years.

In the mid-1980s, leadership at BWC approached researchers at the Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute (SRI) about doing research on musculoskeletal disorders. From there, a partnership that would span decades was born. Since then, BWC and the SRI have partnered on leading edge research projects to treat and prevent back injuries in the workplace.

The team at the SRI, led by Dr. William Marras, has received multiple research grants from the Division of Safety and Hygiene. They developed the Lumbar Motion Monitor (LMM), the first wearable sensor for the spine, now used worldwide. The LMM monitors the motion of a person’s lower back. Their motions are then compared to databases to assess injury risk or quantify their level of impairment.

Using the LMM, researchers went on to develop a set of lifting guidelines employers could use to facilitate transitional work and evaluate lifting tasks. By using trends in injury data, they identified jobs that were likely to result in back injuries. They then looked at the forces on the body while people lifted and performed actions on the job. This data was used to create a set of easy to use guidelines for employers, medical professionals and transitional work providers. 

Researchers at the SRI have also worked closely with our Medical division, analyzing BWC injury data. They measured the effectiveness of spinal fusion surgery for patients with musculoskeletal disorders. Their work helped to change the guidelines for treatment in the state of Ohio to provide injured workers more effective treatment.  

Today, they are working to understand all the factors that go into finding an effective treatment. Often, it is difficult to understand the exact injury, so treatment is done on a trial and error basis that eventually leads to the patient having spinal surgery. The surgery is costly and only has a 50% success rate. By phenotyping back injuries and collecting a multitude of data on the way patients move, they plan to develop a database that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify the best treatment.

The future is all about prevention. “The best way to treat a back injury is to never have it,” said Dr. Marras. Eventually, they hope to use the database to prevent back injuries from occurring. By looking at the combinations of physical and psychosocial factors that contribute to injuries, we can better understand who will get injured and prevent it from happening.

Suicide Prevention: Don’t be too tough to talk about it

By Mona Weiss, Industrial Safety Consultant Specialist, BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene

If you’ve never experienced a late-night emergency phone call, I can tell you from my experience, over twenty years ago, it’s something one won’t soon forget. Sadly, we’ve all likely had at least one of “those kinds of calls.” Mine came from my mother, almost exactly 20 years ago today. The shaking in her voice came through on the crackling landline, “we’re at the hospital. It’s bad, Mona. Ryan has shot himself.”

Ryan was my 22-year-old nephew. I’d changed his diapers. Swung him on a swing. Watched him breathe life into dead engines when he was but 14. Ryan had gone on to become a star football player in high school and was closely watched by university recruiters. How could we have known then that Ryan’s glorious days of reliably making touchdowns were going to be some of his last? If only we’d had a crystal ball…

Fast forward to last fall, when the topic of suicide was brought up by Greg Burkhart, Director of Safety and Training for the Associated General Contractors of Northwest Ohio (AGCNWO) at a monthly safety meeting. I instantly sat up taller in my chair. Are we really going to talk about this? Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the 20 years since Ryan’s death, it’s that it’s taboo to talk about this! Team Chair Burkhart said that suicide statistics in construction had been covered at their national conference, and that the AGCNWO was looking at forming a committee to develop suicide-related support and resources for the local construction community.  No voluntold necessary! I leaped right in!

The AGCNWO generously provided all resources, the team chair, and the forum within which our team was to work. They also reallocated time from their in-house marketing expert to develop a logo, website, content, print, and more to help spread the word. Our first mission was to lay out the basics. We faced a few challenges: 

  • Name the campaign in a way that doesn’t alienate the audience.
  • Identify and learn to target those who have the most influence on possible at-risk persons within the workforce (such as his or her supervisor).
  • Ensure we clarify that we are not a suicide prevention counseling service, but rather a collection of resources to assist those in need.
  • Most important how do we get the attention of the victim, a person who would generally like to avoid this topic? Through his or her supervisor? Maybe his or her family? Remember, it’s “taboo to talk about!” 

As we brainstormed, we found the suicide victim numbers staggering! We learned that an estimated 5,500 construction workers take their lives annually, and that construction is the second-highest industry for suicides. Over the course of our project development, we grew hungry to learn more, and to uncover the mysteries behind the causes of suicide. In response, the AGCNWO secured some of the top experts in suicide and mental health as team meeting presenters.

These efforts resulted in the 2 Tuff 2 Talk campaign. In addition to the website, several electronic billboards with related messaging have been posted in the Toledo area. Hard hat stickers and larger signs for posting on employee message boards and at worksites will be released soon.

While suicide is perhaps not a pleasant topic, it’s especially important at this time of higher stress and changed working conditions. If you are among those who have lost a loved one to suicide, or if you know someone who seems to be in a difficult situation, even if they don’t work in the construction industry, you may find the resources below helpful. Meanwhile, I want to thank the AGCNWO for their passionate commitment to assisting in suicide prevention in the construction industry, and for sponsoring our team!

If you are having suicidal thoughts or feelings call 1-800-720-9616 for confidential support from a behavioral health professional.

Trench collapse survivor tells his story to save others

By Bruce Loughner, CSP, Safety Technical Resource Consultant

“It was pitch black,” Eric Giguere told a rapt audience at our 2019 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo. “It was like I was hit by a truck going 70 mph.”

He was describing what it was like being buried alive under about 2,000 pounds of dirt in a trench that was six feet deep.

Giguere started the day, Oct. 4, 2002, looking forward to leaving for his honeymoon that afternoon; he ended the day on life support in the intensive care unit of an upstate New York hospital.

“I was 27 years old with a terrible attitude toward safety. I didn’t speak up about unsafe working conditions. I was OK with taking shortcuts,” he said. “That’s why I ended up buried in that trench.” But he wasn’t the only one taking shortcuts that day. His employer had Giguere and his colleagues working in a trench that was six feet deep without trench boxes and other safety measures.

“We got comfortable doing things the wrong way. For what? To cut corners. To save time,” he said. “Well, all it took was a split second to forever change my life and to put my co-workers in the horrible position of having to make a life-or-death decision to help save me.”

One of those co-workers used a backhoe to remove the top layer of dirt from the collapsed trench, knowing that if the bucket struck Giguere, it could kill him.

After 10 minutes of digging frantically by hand, his colleagues eventually uncovered his lifeless body. They began CPR even as he was partially buried. A life flight helicopter transported him to Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York.

His wife, who he had married just six days earlier, waited with family members as Giguere’s life hung in the balance. Doctors told them even if he survived, he would likely be severely brain damaged. He would make a miraculous recovery, but it was accompanied by recurring nightmares, fear of dark, enclosed spaces, and forgetfulness.

Cognitive and psychological therapy has helped him recover over time. These days, you’d never know from his outward appearance and demeanor that he suffered such a life-altering event. But it hasn’t been without hardship.

Ultimately, his marriage could not withstand the aftermath of the accident. “In some ways, the man that my wife had married less than a week before never came out of the bottom of that trench,” he said.

However, his second chance at life has given him the opportunity to influence the lives of others in a powerful way. He founded his own company, Safety Awareness Solutions, and he’s shared his story with thousands of workers in the U.S. and internationally with the goal of raising safety awareness.

“The chance to speak with others regarding my accident gives my life a great sense of fulfillment,” he says. “If you learn something and you don’t share it with somebody, it does no good to learn it. I want to share my story, as an average guy, to others in hopes that maybe they’ll realize I’m just like this guy. He did the same things I have done. Maybe I better not do that, or I could end up just like him.”

The BWC Learning Center has a recorded webinar – Trenching Overview: A Focus Four Initiative – you and your employees can view for free. Simply log in to the BWC Learning Center, search for Trenching Overview, click the link, and enroll. Employers who have not yet established a BWC Learning Center login can view instructions here.

In addition, the following training resources can assist you in promoting safer work practices. Employers are required to train their employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, and on the regulations related to the work environment. The training should teach employees to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.

Trench Stand Down focuses on keeping workers safe in trenches

By Bruce Loughner, CSP, Safety Technical Resource Consultant

In February 2020, a 34-year-old worker died when a trench he was working in collapsed in Licking County. In June 2020, a trench collapse killed two workers in Starkville, Mississippi.

Unfortunately, these tragic incidents are reminders of the potential dangers of trenching and excavation work. However, most trenching injuries and fatalities are preventable with proper training and safety equipment.

The 2021 Trench Safety Stand Down, scheduled for June 14-18 and sponsored by the National Utility Contractors Association, gives employers an opportunity to talk directly to their workforce and others about trenching and excavation hazards and to reinforce the importance of protecting workers from them.

The Trench Safety Stand Down encourages employers to take a break to have a toolbox talk or other safety activity to draw attention to the specific hazards related to working in and around trenches and excavations.

At BWC, we support the stand down and we’re strongly committed to preventing trenching accidents, which are often deadly. Our Trench Safety Grant is available to employers through our Ohio campaign, TrenchSafetyOhio.com, to increase awareness of the hazards of working in trenches and promote safe trenching work practices.

We realize it may be a challenge to conduct in-person events, but you can still share resources like our trench safety card (In English and Spanish) with your workers. You can also find additional resources and information on our Trench Safety Resources page. We’re hosting a virtual Trenching Safety Stand Down on June 15. During the event, you’ll learn how to identify trenching and excavation risk factors and ways to protect workers.

Additionally, the BWC Learning Center has a recorded webinar – Trenching Overview: A Focus Four Initiative – you and your employees can view for free. Simply log in to the BWC Learning Center, search for Trenching Overview, click the link, and enroll. Employers who have not yet established a BWC Learning Center login can view instructions here.

Whether it’s watching a webinar, sharing videos or information online, or having a smaller event, following proper physical distancing protocols, we hope you’ll take part in the 2021 Trench Safety Stand Down.

The following training resources can assist you in promoting safer work practices. Employers are required to train their employees to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions, and on the regulations related to the work environment. The training should teach employees to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.

Acclimatization and Other Tips to Avoid Heat Illness

By Rich Gaul, Safety Technical Advisor

With summer just around the corner, now is the time to learn about heat illness so you can take the proper precautions. Almost 50% of heat-related deaths occur on a worker’s first day on the job and over 70% occur during a worker’s first week.* High school and college students starting new summer jobs, like landscaping, are at high risk because they may work 8-12 hours per day in the heat.

In an earlier blog, we discussed the signs and symptoms of heat illness. Now we’ll talk about preparing for the heat. Prior to beginning any strenuous physical work or recreational activity, it is important to prepare your body by warming up slowly. Preparing for strenuous activities in the hot summer months is no different.

One of the most important and often overlooked heat illness prevention strategies is called acclimatization. This involves slow and gradual increases to heat exposure over a period of 7 to 14 days. Physiological adaptations occur in the human body during that time period that increase tolerance of heat exposure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends 20% exposure on day one, with 20% increase in exposure each additional day. Acclimatizing periods are particularly important for new employees and those returning from extended leaves of absence. Employers should have acclimatization plans in place now to help prepare their employees for heat exposure.

A NIOSH study of heat-related illnesses and death found that in most cases, the employers had no program to prevent heat illness, or their programs were deficient. Acclimatization was the program element most commonly missing and most directly associated with worker death.

We all look forward to enjoying the summer months, but it’s important to take the proper precautions. Whether you work in a hot environment or just enjoy summer recreational activities, slow and gradual exposure to heat over a period of several days or weeks will help your body acclimatize.

In addition to acclimatization, following the simple guidelines below will also help prevent heat-related illnesses. 

Other tips to avoid heat illness:

  • Take frequent breaks in shaded areas or air conditioning.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day (eight ounces every 15-20 minutes).
  • Avoid direct sunlight to minimize heat load and harmful UV rays.
  • Wear light-colored, light weight, loose clothing that provides natural ventilation.
  • Perform strenuous work in the morning or late afternoon when temperatures are cooler.
  • Know the early warning signs and symptoms of heat illness and seek help when needed.
  • Plan for and know what to do in an emergency.

Use the information in this two-part blog series to prevent heat illness so you can enjoy summer safely. For additional information about heat illness prevention, attend BWC’s virtual training class on Thermal Stress on June 9, 2021 or read BWC’s Heat Stress Safety Talk. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) website provides workers and employers with additional information and resources on heat illnesses and how to prevent it, including heat stress prevention QuickCards available in both English and Spanish. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also has information on preventing heat-related illness at work in its May 7, 2021 blog.

*Source: OSHA, Heat: Prevention: Protecting New Workers