Feeling the heat? Stay safe with preventive measures

By Isayah Hickson, BWC Occupational Safety & Hygiene Fellow

Click on graphic for full size image. Courtesy of the National Weather Service.

A glance at the thermometer tells the story: we’re officially in the dog days of summer.

This means we’re in the hottest part of the season and at greater risk of heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Heat exhaustion is a result of the body
overheating. Common symptoms may include heavy sweating, dizziness, fainting, and rapid pulse.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. It occurs when the body’s core temperature rises too high and its natural cooling system stops working. Symptoms may include an altered mental state, lack of perspiration, rash, muscle cramps, exhaustion, and stroke.

Who is at risk?
The risk of heat illness is greatest for workers in hot/humid environments and outdoor workers. People who are obese, have high blood pressure, heart disease, and those over 65 years old may be more susceptible to heat illnesses.

Prevention methods
Below are helpful reminders when working in heat and humidity.

  • Drink one glass (or equivalent) of water every 15 to 30 minutes worked, depending on conditions.
  • Take frequent breaks (five to 10 minutes per hour) to cool down and replenish.
  • Know how prescription drugs you take react to sun and heat exposure.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, and non-prescribed drugs.
  • Build up tolerance to the heat (called acclimatization) by initially limiting the physical activity and exposure to the heat and gradually increasing these over a one- to two-week period.
  • Manage work activities and pair them to employees’ physical conditions. Adapt work and pace to the weather.
  • Use special protective gear (if available), such as cooling garments and cooling vests on “early entry” workers.
  • Know and review first-aid techniques for heat-related conditions.

There’s an app for that
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed a smart phone app – the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool – to assess heat stress risk where outdoor activities are planned. You can download it on the App Store or Google Play.

Eight hot safety tips for summer

By Michelle Francisco, BWC Safety Council Program Manager

Heat is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the U.S. It’s also one of the most preventable.

Summer isn’t officially here yet, but now’s as good a time as any to remind folks they can still enjoy the summertime weather without putting themselves or others in danger.

Below are eight helpful tips to be heat smart this summer:

  1. If you’re working outside, stay hydrated and take breaks in the shade often. Don’t wait to drink water until you’re thirsty!
  2. Use a buddy system if you’re working in excessive temperature conditions.
  3. Don’t leave kids or pets alone in the car.
  4. Limit strenuous outdoor activities, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Scheduling strenuous activities in the early a.m. hours can reduce your risk as well.
  5. Wear light colored and loose clothing. Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays.
  6. If you do not have air conditioning, create a plan for where you can go for heat relief – especially during the hottest parts of the day (libraries, theaters, malls, etc.).
  7. Ensure your pets have shade and plenty of water if they’re outside.
  8. Check on family, friends and neighbors who are elderly and sick and may not have adequate protection from the heat.

For those who work outside as part of their job, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has a wealth of information on its Occupational Exposure to Heat webpage.

Whether at work or at play, symptoms of heat overexertion can range from mild (heat exhaustion) to life-threatening (heat stroke). Preparing yourself for the heat is an often overlooked first step. Watch the weather forecast, get enough rest, stay hydrated, avoid caffeine and alcohol and dress appropriately.

For more safety tips and information to stay safe this summer, visit BeSafeOhio.com.

Beat the heat of the “Dog Days of Summer”

By Jeff Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor

We know that the “dog days of summer” are typically the hottest, most humid days of the year.  But did you ever wonder how they got their name?

According to the Farmers’ Almanac[1], the name originated during ancient Roman times.  In the Northern Hemisphere, the star Sirius prominently occupies the same region of the sky as the Sun in late summer.  Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major, the Great Dog.  The Romans believed this bright star added to the sun’s heat during the time when Sirius is most visible (roughly July 3 – August 11); hence the “dog days” of summer.

While the origin of the name is rooted in mythology, the truth is that when sweltering weather arrives, the dangers of heat-related illnesses are very real.  When the combination of environmental conditions [temperature + humidity + air movement]and physical exertion result in your body producing more heat that it can release through sweating and respiration, your core temperature can rise to unsafe and unhealthy levels.  Symptoms can range from mild (Heat Exhaustion) to life-threatening (Heat Stroke).  It doesn’t matter if you’re in your backyard, on the playing field or at work, identifying a potential heat stress situation and taking prompt action is the key.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the University of Washington both have excellent resources for identifying and treating heat illnesses.

OSHA Heat Safety ToolPreparing yourself for the heat is an often overlooked step.  Watching the weather forecast, getting enough rest, being properly hydrated, avoiding caffeine & alcohol and dressing appropriately are all steps that minimize the risk of developing a heat illness.  Scheduling strenuous activities earlier in the day can reduce your risk as well.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a Heat Safety Tool app that calculates the heat index for your location and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level for outdoor activity. Then, with a simple “click,” you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect yourself from heat-related illness.

While a dog may be man’s best friend, having human companions watching out for each other during hot weather is important, too.  Being alert to the signs & symptoms of heat illness in family members, teammates and co-workers, and checking on vulnerable friends and neighbors, like the elderly or those with chronic illnesses, are all steps we can take to keep everyone safe in the heat.

Heat Safety Pic 2And finally, take a tip from our canine friends: when it gets too hot, take a big drink of water and find a cool spot to rest.

 

[1] Why Are They Called “Dog Days” of Summer? (2015)   Retrieved 9 June 2016 from Farmers’ Almanac online.

National Safety Month highlights importance of workplace safety education and prevention

Sarah MorrisonBWC offers Ohio employers free safety courses all year long 

By Sarah D. Morrison, Administrator/CEO

June is National Safety Month, when thousands of organizations across the country join the National Safety Council to raise awareness of what it takes to stay “SafeForLife.” We at the Ohio BWC want employers and employees to think safety all year round, of course, but June is an excellent time for employers to review and update their safety programs and for employees to be especially mindful of good safety habits. Here’s why:

  • It’s summer. School’s out and our young, less-experienced workers will be out in full force, some in jobs where they’re not too familiar with certain kinds of machinery, be it a deep fryer, a chipper-shredder or a carnival ride. They’ll need guidance from experienced co-workers. Check out our Youth Safety site for additional resources.
  • It’s hot, and this year could be the hottest on record, scientists warn. That could mean especially brutal conditions for Ohioans who work outdoors. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reminds us that heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses.

We encourage workers to watch out for each other and take action if a coworker is struggling on the job or showing signs of heat illness. Additionally, because many outdoor workers change job sites routinely, it’s important to become familiar with the work location in case there’s a need to call for help. And for those scorcher days, remember these simple tips: hydrate, cover and rest.beat_the_heat

  • Hydrate with water every 15 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty;
  • Cover up with light clothes and a hat;
  • Rest regularly in cool shaded areas.

The BWC is your go-to center for workplace safety. Our Division of Safety and Hygiene is an outstanding resource for Ohio employers seeking consultation on the most effective safety practices. Here are just a few areas we suggest you review as we kick off the summer:

  • Emergency preparedness programs – There are many types of emergencies employers face, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks. Employers can review scenarios with their employees so they are prepared to make the best decisions in the event of an emergency.
  • Hazard communications plans – These plans keep record of all hazardous chemicals, how to use them, what to do if an employee is exposed, and where to find that data within the workplace easily. Employees need this training when hired and refreshed throughout their employment. BWC consultants can help employers create a hazard communications plan.
  • First Aid Kits – Check your first aid kit to ensure all supplies are replenished and any medications are not expired. BWC’s video library contains several training videos on first aid in the workplace.

Remember, most injuries are preventable if employers and employees work together to recognize potential dangers and warning signs and know how to respond. So let’s take this month to recommit ourselves to fostering safe work environments all year long!

For more information about safety, go to bwc.ohio.gov and click on Safety Services to get tips and information about grants and consultations. Employers can call 1-800-644-6292 to schedule safety consultations.

All BWC safety services are included as part of employers’ premiums at no additional charge.