Not Too Hot to Handle: Tips for Preventing Heat-Induced Illnesses and Injuries

28 Jul

Late July brings some of the hottest temperatures of the year around the country, certainly we are feeling it in Southern California. So it’s a good time for some refreshing refresher training on how your workers can beat the heat. Also, we have Cal/OSHA regulations requiring a written plan for dealing with heat illness, training, providing water and shade for all outdoor employees, including truck drives and dock employees.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) warns that heat-induced occupational illnesses, injuries, and reduced productivity can occur with excessive exposure to a hot work environment.

Heat-induced disorders include:

Transient heat fatigue,
Heat rash,
Fainting,
Heat cramps,
Heat exhaustion, and
Heatstroke.

Aside from these disorders, heat poses the threat of injuries because of accidents caused by slippery palms as a result of sweating, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Severe burns can also occur as a direct result of accidental contact with hot surfaces and steam.

NIOSH has assembled a number of handouts and other resources with information on heat-induced occupational illnesses, injuries, and reduced productivity, as well as methods that can be taken to reduce risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also provides helpful tips as to how individuals can avoid heat-related illness. That advice includes:

Take extra care of new employees, as they have not become “acclimatized” meaning their bodies have not adapted to working in heat. All of us need to adjust when temperatures or humidity rise suddenly.

Drink more fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask him or her how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Drink a cup of water every 15 minutes during the peak working and hot times.

Don’t drink liquids that contain caffeine, alcohol, or large amounts of sugar: These actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Cool off when needed, even a few minutes spent in shade or a cooler are can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Take a break in shade whenever feeling heat stress, even if it is only a short while. Do not wait until the official rest break.

Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:

Infants and young children
People aged 65 or older
People who have a mental illness
Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure

Why It Matters

Heat illnesses can be very serious—even deadly.
Your workers need to know how to protect themselves from the heat both on and off the job.
As the summer wears on, workers may think they’ve gotten used to the heat and not be as cautious; continue to give them frequent reminders and brief training sessions all summer long to keep everyone safe.

Don Dressler Consulting can help you with writing your heat illness prevention plan, training materials, posters and other ways to keep your employees safe and OSHA compliant.

Just check our websites: http://www.dondressler.com and http://www.calworksafety.com

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