Working In Extreme Heat Has Its Consequences!
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched its fourth annual Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers. This campaign is designed to raise awareness as well as educate workers and employers about the dangers or working in hot weather. It aims to provide resources and guidance that enables both workers and employers to address these hazards. This article features the components of OSHA’s campaign by explaining what heat illness is, who is effected and what can be done to prevent it. (Provided by osha.gov)
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez states that “Heat related illness can be fatal, and employers are responsible for keeping workers safe.” He says that by taking just a few easy steps including “frequent water breaks, providing shade and allowing employees ample time to rest” can help to prevent heat related illness. It is calculated that in 2012 there were 31 heat related worker deaths and 4,120 heat related worker illnesses. Learn how to detect the signs of heat related illness and how to prevent it.
What is heat illness?
The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken such as drinking water frequently and resting in the shade or air conditioning. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and can result in death.
How can heat illness be prevented?
Employers should establish a complete heat illness prevention program to prevent heat illness. This includes: provide workers with water, rest and shade; gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more to build a tolerance for working in the heat (acclimatization); modify work schedules as necessary; plan for emergencies and train workers about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention; and monitor workers for signs of illness. Workers new to the heat or those that have been away from work and are returning can be most vulnerable to heat stress and they must be acclimatized (see box).
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.
If workers are 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, implement a work schedule to allow them to get used to the heat gradually.
Remember these three simple words: Water, Rest, Shade. Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death. For further information on The OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Campaign and to find out more about what heat illness is and how to prevent it visit the Occupational Safety & Health Administration webpage.