“Heat illness can be deadly – but by making heat safety a part of the job, employers and workers can work longer, feel stronger and stay healthy.” – OSHA
As we move into the warmer summer months, it is crucial for employers to start preparing for higher temperatures in the work environment. Maintaining awareness of heat illness symptoms is a good starting point for heat illness prevention. Employees can also take an active role in watching for signs of heat illness and should notify coworkers and supervisors immediately of any observed heat illness symptoms. Remember, heat illness can be fatal. All employees should know how to get help before the start each workday.
Early symptoms include:
- Heavy sweating
- High pulse rate
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. The following items are required to be part of the heat illness prevention training employers are required to have every year:
- Acclimation – All workers need to acclimate to the higher temperatures prior to working outside for full shifts. It takes about 2 full weeks to get fully acclimated.
- Water – Workers must have cool water easily accessible to where they are working during their shift. Each worker must be provided at least 1 quart of water per hour and drink it frequently while they work to prevent heat illnesses. Other drinks, such as Gatorade or soda, are not OSHA-approved alternatives to water.
- Shade – Shade means blockage of direct sunlight. Shade may be provided by any natural or artificial means that does not expose workers to unsafe or unhealthy conditions. For example, workers are not be allowed to lay under a vehicle for shade. Shade is required when the temperature exceeds 85° and must be as close as it can be to the work area.
- Emergency Response – All workers must be able to recognize symptoms of heat illness and know what emergency procedures are in place. There should be phones available to call 9-1-1 if necessary and the management team should know where the closest medical treatment facility is located.
- Common Sense – Workers should wear clothing made of cotton so that it “breathes” and covers their skin (arms, chest and neck). Have sunscreen handy and apply it when needed to exposed skin areas. Workers should also wear sunglasses and hats when it is safe to do so.
Employers have a responsibility and legal requirement to understand the risks of heat illness in the workplace and take preventative measures to keep workers safe. For more information and answers to questions, contact one of our Risk Management Consultants today! (888) 540-0752.