It’s not just hot, it’s one of the hottest summers in history! With that in mind, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) started a “Heat Illness Prevention” campaign last week, to include a website and extensive guidance. Here’s a few points to remember.
Create a Heat Illness Prevention Plan
OSHA recommends employers with workers exposed to these summer 100-plus degree temperatures should develop a heat illness prevention program. Employers should consider:
- • Who will provide daily oversight?
• Temp workers may be more susceptible to heat and require supervision.
• Workers returning from extended leave may also be at risk.
• How will employers ensure the protocol for calling medical assistance?
• How will heat stress be measured?
• What training will be provided to workers and supervisors?
Provide Day-to-Day Supervision
Employers should designate individuals to monitor conditions and implement the heat plan. In addition, they should provide training for:
- • Identifying and controlling heat hazards;
• Recognizing early symptoms of heat stress;
• Administering first aid;
• Activating emergency medical services when needed.
Protect New Workers
An interesting and perhaps less known consideration is workers must “acclimate” when working in heated environments. Employers should understand new workers may not be used to the heat and are at higher risk of illness. To acclimate workers, the following steps should be taken over a 1-2 week period:
- • Schedule new workers to shorter amounts of time in the heat.
• Give new workers more frequent breaks.
• Train new workers about heat-related illness.
• Monitor new workers closely.
• Use a buddy system for new workers.
OSHA recommends a “Rule of 20 percent” for building heat tolerance, involving shorter workdays that increase over 1-2 weeks. New workers should work only 20% of the normal duration on the first day, and increase 20% on subsequent days.
Employers may explore engineering controls to make the work environment cooler, including:
- • Air conditioning in break rooms;
• Cooling fans;
• Reflective shields to redirect heat;
• Cooled seats or benches for breaks;
• Misting fans that produce a spray of water droplets.
Personal Protective Equipment
In certain situations, equipment or clothing may provide protection. These include insulated suits, reflective clothing, face shields, cooling neck wraps and cooling vests utilizing ice/cooling packs.
Hydration, Rest and Shade
Employers should provide hydration, rest and shade in a manner that is readily accessible. OSHA suggests cool water for shorter jobs and electrolyte-containing sports beverages for jobs more than two hours.
With that said, please have a safe and healthy summer!