Heat Stress Safety 101: Staying Cool In Hot Work Conditions

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August 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm  •  Posted in Construction, Safety  •  0 Comments

Summer’s here. For most people, that means an epic season of poolside lounging and backyard BBQ’ing. But while others grill steaks and luxuriate in the icy-cool comfort of AC, contractors are out there sweatin’ it out till the sun goes down.

The dog days of summer can leave us feeling sweaty and uncomfortable. But for those who work outdoors, hot weather can be dangerous.

According to OSHA, “In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. Heat illnesses and deaths are preventable.”

Article Contents:
To stay safe on the jobsite this summer, know the signs of heat illness, plan work wisely, and take necessary precautions. Here are a few tips to help you work safely in hot weather.

*These tips aren’t a substitute for medical care. When in doubt, consult a doctor or a licensed safety professional. 

Know The Risks

“Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees Fahrenheit.” OSHA: Heat Illness Can Be Deadly 

To stay one step ahead of heat illness, know the risks. Before you start work, know what conditions you’re walking into. Keep an eye on the weather report and watch for a soaring heat index. According to OSHA (Protecting Workers from Heat Stress), a few factors put workers at greater risk for heat illness:

  • High humidity and temperature
  • Direct sun exposure—no breeze or wind
  • Low fluid intake
  • Heavy physical labor
  • Not being acclimatized to hot workplaces (no recent exposure)
  • Waterproof clothing

Watch For Heat Stress Symptoms

When you’re working in hot conditions, it’s crucial to know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion. According to the Mayo Clinic (Heat Exhaustion Symptoms), possible signs of heat exhaustion include:

  • Skin that’s cool and moist with goosebumps
  • Feeling faint, dizzy, confused, or fatigued
  • Sweating heavily
  • A rapid, weak pulse
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Low blood pressure upon standing

If you or a co-worker is displaying signs of heat illness, stop what you’re doing and call 911 immediately.

Drink Up & Take Shelter

On the hottest workdays, supervisors should watch for signs of heat-related illness and check on workers every half an hour or so.

An average day on the jobsite shouldn’t feel like a scene right out of Mad Max. There should be plenty of water to go around and a place to take shelter from the heat. Be sure to take shade breaks and drink lots of water. Choose water over sugary, caffeinated drinks that may lead to dehydration (like soda or coffee). Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect exposed areas of skin.

Plan Work Wisely

OSHA (Protective Measures to Take at Each Risk Level) recommends adjusting work activities to help reduce the risk of heat-related illness:

  • Schedule heavy tasks for a cooler time of day, like the morning or early evening.
  • Set up shade canopies over work areas, or move certain tasks to naturally shaded areas.
  • Rotate demanding work amongst acclimatized workers, and increase the amount of rest time between strenuous tasks.
  • For physically demanding tasks, add more workers to lighten the load.
  • Rotate workers between intense tasks and less-strenuous work in cooler/air conditioned areas.

 

Over to You

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Todd Reed, National Market ManagerAbout The Author
Todd Reed, National Market Manager

As National Market Manager at Graybar, Todd’s goal is to find the best products and solutions to help contractors work more efficiently, stay safe on the job, and win more productive and profitable business.

 

 

 

 
Sources & Credits

OSHA: Heat Illness Can Be Deadly
OSHA: Heat Fatalities
OSHA QUICK CARD: Protecting Workers from Heat Stress
Mayo Clinic: Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
OSHA: Protective Measures to Take at Each Risk Level

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