SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Protect Your Employees from Heat Stress Related Injuries
Protect Your Employees from Heat Stress Related Injuries
It’s that time of year again when heat illness is a particularly
important safety concern to both employers and
employees. As many know, I live in Arizona and this week
the average daily temperature in the “Valley Of The Sun”
is 115 degrees. I love the people who say, “It is ok, it is a
dry heat”. Well to them I say, stick you head in the oven,
turn it on to 115 and see if you like it. Hot is Hot.
Depending on where you live, many of our factories in
the United States do not have air conditioning and where
they do have it, many employees are operating thermoforming
machines, plastic injection molding machines or
are working in areas where it is hot.
According to the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH), workers may experience
longer or more intense heat exposures and are more likely
to engage in strenuous physical activity in the heat than
the general public.
Employer Responsibility to Protect Workers
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing
workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes
protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with
workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a
complete heat illness prevention program.
- Employers must establish a formal written program and
train employees on heat related subjects.
- Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
- Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase
workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize,
or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
- Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
- Monitor workers for signs of illness.
What’s the big deal about heat?
Heat illness occurs when your body can’t adequately cool
itself through sweating. According to the National Safety
Council (NSC), heat-related illnesses can escalate rapidly,
leading to delirium, organ damage, and even death.
What are the dangers?
If you work in hot conditions, you can be at risk of several
heat-related illnesses. The following are heat-related
illnesses and what to look for:
- Heat rash consists of red, irritated bumps and is a sign
that hot conditions are affecting your body.
- Heat syncope (fainting) can occur when a person is not
used to working in a hot environment.
- Heat cramps are caused by a loss of salt when sweating.
Severe cramps may require a visit to a medical professional.
- Heat exhaustion occurs if you have lost too much fluid,
salt, or both through sweating.
- Heatstroke occurs when the body’s natural cooling
processes stop working, and the ill person stops sweating.
Symptoms of heatstroke include very hot and dry skin,
confusion, convulsions, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
Heatstroke is very serious and can lead to death.
What can you do to keep cool?
All of these heat-related illnesses can be easily prevented
by taking the following steps while working in hot conditions:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. In hot conditions,
you should aim for about 1 cup every 15 to 20
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Drink sports drinks to help replace the salt you lose
when you sweat.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can both cause dehydration.
- Take frequent breaks in a cool, shady place.
- If the temperature spikes suddenly or you are new to
working in hot conditions, take more frequent breaks,
and gradually build up your workload while your body
- If you notice yourself experiencing symptoms of heat illness,
tell your supervisor, and take a break in a cool,
shaded area. Using a buddy system will assist supervisors
when watching for signs of heat illness.
- Emergency Planning and Response - Have an emergency
plan in place and communicate it to supervisors
and workers. Emergency plan considerations include:
- What to do when someone is showing signs of heat illness.
This can make the difference between life and death.
- How to contact emergency help.
- How long it will take for emergency help to arrive and
training workers on appropriate first-aid measures
until help arrives.
- Consider seeking advice from a healthcare professional
in preparing a plan.
If you are attending the AWFS®Fair in Las Vegas July 19-22,
2017 please visit us in booth #9970 or sigh-up for my presentation
“Developing an Effective Machine Guarding Program”
(session SA84) Saturday, July 23 from 9:30 – 11:00 at
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of the page.