8 Steps To Keep Workers Safe In The Heat
Industrial Maintenance & Plant Operation
Every year, thousands of workers become ill from working in the heat, and some even die. Construction workers make up about one-third of heat-related worker deaths, but outdoor workers in every industry -- particularly agriculture, landscaping, transportation, and oil and gas operations -- are at risk when temperatures go up.
Heat-related illnesses and deaths can be prevented. Employers and supervisors can save the lives of workers in hot environments by following these eight simple steps:
- Institute a heat acclimatization plan and medical monitoring program. Closely supervise new employees for the first 14 days or until they are fully acclimatized. Most heat-related worker deaths occur in the first 3 days on the job, and more than a third occur on the very first day. New and temporary workers are disproportionately affected. If someone has not worked in hot weather for at least a week, their body needs time to adjust.
- Encourage workers to drink about 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes. During prolonged sweating lasting several hours, they should drink sports beverages containing balanced electrolytes.
- Provide shaded or air-conditioned rest areas for cooling down, and empower workers to use them.
- Provide workers with protective equipment and clothing (such as water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, hats, ice-packet vests, wetted over-garments and heat-reflective aprons or suits).
- Be familiar with heat illness signs and symptoms, and make sure your employees are, too. Some heat exhaustion signs are dizziness, headaches, cramps, sweaty skin, nausea and vomiting, weakness and a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke symptoms include red, hot, dry skin; convulsions; fainting; and confusion. In general, fainting and confusion represent an emergency and should trigger the call for professional evaluation.
- Encourage workers to recognize heat illness symptoms and notify a supervisor or medical professional if they or other co-workers are showing signs. Implement a buddy system, where workers observe each other for early signs and symptoms of heat intolerance.
- Download OSHA's Heat Safety Tool on your iPhone or Android device to help calculate the heat index, a measurement of how it feels when considering humidity. The app provides specific recommendations for preventing heat illness based on the estimated risk level where you are working.
- Know what to do in an emergency. Employees should call a supervisor for help. If a supervisor is not available, call 911. Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives.
More resources are available on OSHA's website in English and Spanish. Remember: "Water. Rest. Shade." can prevent heat illness and save lives.
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