Blog: Are You Ready for the Summer Heat? Take Precautions for Worker Safety
August 4, 2016
We've had a cool spring, but the summer temperatures are upon us and installations nationwide are seeing the heat rise, exposing staff working or traveling outdoors to potential heat-related stress and illness. Staff who aren't used to being outside in higher temperatures can find the heat debilitating or even life-threatening. Outdoor workers who are new to the heat or are returning to work after an absence are the most vulnerable, but indoor workers in a hot environment may suffer heat illness as well. Heat-stressed workers may experience ailments ranging from minor discomfort, like heat rash, to medically serious conditions such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Vernadero encourages installations to take preventative measures to keep workers safe, cool, and hydrated in hot weather.
Protect Yourself—Don't Feel the Burn
Days that are apparently cool or overcast may seem comfortable and safe, but exposure to the sun without protection can result in a nasty burn, dehydration, or worse. Workers should be sure to wear waterproof sunblock with a high SPF, wear light clothing that covers arms and legs, and consider fitting hard hats with cooling gear or shade rags. Be careful near equipment that has been sitting in the sun, as hot metal can burn bare skin. Always use the proper personal protective equipment and follow safety precautions.
Chill Out and Stay Safe
High temperatures can rapidly increase body temperature to dangerous levels. Even lower temperatures can be risky when combined with a high relative humidity, which can boost the apparent temperature even higher. OSHA recommends that employers create a complete heat illness prevention program to protect workers. OSHA advises:
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
Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death. To prevent heat related illness and fatalities, follow OSHA's rules:
- 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 the first days of work in the heat. Take time to get used to it.
Know the Signs of Heat-Related Illness
All workers should be familiar with the symptoms of serious heat-related conditions and how to render emergency aid if needed. These are outlined in OSHA and NIOSH's joint publication, "Protecting Workers from Heat Illness."