Summer Is Heat Stress Season
Well, it’s June again and we should be thinking about heat stress to make sure workers don’t overheat this year. Heat stress is a risk for people working outdoors but also for those working inside.
What Is Heat Stress?
So what is heat stress? When the body can’t cool itself by sweating, a range of heat-related issues can occur, including heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which is the most dangerous). These are collectively known as heat stress.
Heat Stress Training Materials
We’ve got a bunch of materials that should help you train your workers on heat stress, so let’s get to listing them below.
Helpful Heat Stress Links
Here are some handy links to some more information about heat stress:
- OSHA’s Safety and Health Topic webpage on Occupational Heat Exposure
- OSHA’s Water/Rest/Shade Program to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers
- A heat safety app for mobile phones from OSHA
- Information about heat stress from our friends at NIOSH and the CDC
- And here’s a map from OSHA that shows the location of on-the-job heat fatalities since 2008.
- Washington State Department of Labor Outdoor Heat Exposure webpage
- Cal-OSHA Heat Illness Prevention e-tool
- NOAA’s Heat: A Major Killer webpage
- NIH’s Heat Illness webpage
Heat-Related Illnesses, Symptoms, and First Aid
Here’s a list of heat-related illnesses, their symptoms, and appropriate first aid. This comes from an OSHA Safety and Health Topics webpage (source).
- Excessive sweating or red, hot, dry skin
- Very high body temperature
Appropriate first aid is to call 911 first.
Then, while waiting for emergency help to arrive:
- Place worker in shady, cool area
- Loosen clothing, remove outer clothing
- Fan air on worker; cold packs in armpits
- Wet worker with cool water; apply ice packs, cool compresses, or ice if available
- Provide fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible
- Stay with worker until help arrives
- Cool, moist skin
- Heavy sweating
- Nausea or vomiting
- Light headedness
- Fast heart beat
Appropriate first aid is to:
- Have worker sit or lie down in a cool, shady area
- Give worker plenty of water or other cool beverages to drink
- Cool worker with cold compresses/ice packs
- Take to clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation or treatment if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes.
- Do not return to work that day
- Muscle spasms
- Usually in abdomen, arms, or legs
Appropriate first aid is to:
- Have worker rest in shady, cool area
- Worker should drink water or other cool beverages
- Wait a few hours before allowing worker to return to strenuous work
- Have worker seek medical attention if cramps don’t go away
- Clusters of red bumps on skin
- Often appears on neck, upper chest, folds of skin
Appropriate first aid is to:
- Try to work in a cooler, less humid environment when possible
- Keep the affected area dry
Heat Stress and the Hierarchy of Controls
You can use the time-tested hierarchy of controls to help protect workers from heat stress and heat-related illnesses. If you don’t know about the hierarchy of controls, you can read more about the hierarchy of controls here and get a free hierarchy of controls e-learning course here. Otherwise, read on to see how to apply it to the issue of heat stress (source).
Heat Stress and Engineering Controls
Engineering controls are always the best and most effective. So begin by trying to create a cooler working environment. Here are some things to consider/try:
- Air conditioning
- General ventilation
- Local exhaust ventilation near places of high heat
- Reflective shields to redirect radiant heat
- Insulation of hot surfaces, such as near furnaces or boilers
- Repairing steam leaks
Heat Stress and Work Practices
Sometimes an engineering control isn’t feasible or it’s not enough. In that case, look into work practices (also sometimes called administrative controls). Here are some ideas:
- Create an emergency plan that covers what to do if a worker has signs of heat-related illness, and ensures that medical services are available if needed.
- Take steps that help workers become acclimatized (gradually build up exposure to heat), especially workers who are new to working in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
- Provide plenty of safe drinking water close to the work area, encourage workers to drink it, and make sure they know to drink small amounts frequently.
- Try to schedule work day so workers are exposed to heat for more frequent, shorter periods instead of fewer, longer periods. (See About Work/Rest Schedules.)
- Try if possible to reduce physical working demands during hot weather, and/or schedule heavier work for cooler times of the day.
- Have workers rotate job functions to limit any one worker’s total heat exposure.
- Train workers about the symptoms symptoms of heat-related illness, make sure they know to look out for one another, and have them and administer appropriate first aid to anyone who is developing a heat-related illness.
- In some situations, employers may need to conduct physiological monitoring of workers – see Monitoring Workers at Risk of Heat-related Illness.
Heat Stress and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Make sure workers know that some personal protective equipment (such as certain types of respirators and impermeable clothing) can increase the risk of heat-related illness. In these cases, workers should be extra vigilant and take extra safety measures to keep cool.
In other situations, special cooling devices can protect workers in hot environments. For example:
- In some workplaces, insulated gloves, insulated suits, reflective clothing, or infrared reflecting face shields may be needed.
- Thermally conditioned clothing might be used for extremely hot conditions; for example:
- A garment with a self-contained air conditioner in a backpack.
- A garment with a compressed air source that feeds cool air through a vortex tube.
- A plastic jacket whose pockets can be filled with dry ice or containers of ice.
Heat Stress and Training
Be sure to provide training about heat stress and heat-related illnesses. Training should cover:
- Risk factors
- Different types of heat-related illness
- How to recognize Common signs and symptoms.
- Preventing heat-related illnesses
- Importance of drinking small quantities of water often.
- Importance of acclimatization, how it happens, and how your workplace facilitates it
- Importance of immediately reporting signs or symptoms of heat-related illness to the supervisor.
- Procedures for responding to possible heat-related illness.
- Procedures to follow when contacting emergency medical services.
- Procedures to ensure that clear and precise directions to the work site will be provided to emergency medical services.
Industry-Specific Heat-Stress and Heat-Related Illness Resources
OSHA has a website with MANY resources for heat stress and specific industries. Check it out here.
Heat Stress, The General Duty Clause, and Related Standards
Quite a few standards touch on this–click to see a list of standards related to heat stress at workplaces.
Heat Stress e-Learning Course from Convergence Training
Or, click here to see other titles in our Health and Safety training libraries.
Finally, have you ever wondered what the hottest spots in the US are? Well, wonder no more, friend!
Effective EHS Training: A Step-by-Step Guide
Learn how to design, create, deliver, and evaluate effective EHS training by following these best practices with our free step-by-step guide.