The Dangers of Heat Stroke and Heat Illness
As summer temperatures rise, the federal government has a message for employers: take care of your employees. Plan for emergency response procedures and be prepared for heat illness prevention by providing:
- Water: provide it free, cool and with encouragement to drink it.
- Shade: make it available at workers’ request.
Compliance with workplace heat safety regulations is the law, according to remarks from officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration posted on EHS Today.
OSHA offers advice to outdoor workers
With temperatures possibly rising to a triple-digit boil in California, representatives of The Golden State’s OSHA office advised employers to take steps to protect outdoor workers, focusing on jobs in agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction, and transportation.
OSHA investigators inspect outdoor job sites to ensure companies are complying with safety standards.
Workers who experience overheating should seek shade until symptoms dissipate.
Employees with pre-existing medical conditions that reduce heat tolerance, such as diabetes or the effects of anti-inflammatory medications, should take precautions.
Thousands of workers suffer from heat-related injuries or illnesses each year because of job conditions that become overheated. Some even die. Many of the injuries are preventable.
Common problems caused by heat exposure
The common medical problems caused by heat exposure are heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. OSHA advises help ranging from moving to a cooler environment and stopping and resting, to taking a cool shower and calling an ambulance.
To prevent heat illness, OSHA California officials said it is important that supervisors are trained in emergency procedures if a worker gets sick. The goal is to ensure that sick employees get treatment immediately and that the symptoms do not develop into illness or death.
OSHA California recommended the following steps to deal with heat-related illness on the job:
- Plan – Develop a written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
- Train – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
- Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least a quart per hour — and encourage workers to do so.
- Shade – Provide shade when workers request it and when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
Reducing the risk of heat-related work injuries
Anyone with a concern about workplace hazards can file a complaint with OSHA, which is based in Washington D.C. The phone number is 1-800-321-6742.
California regulations related to managing work conditions in high heat note that when temperatures reach 95 degrees or above, employers must ensure that employees take a minimum of 10 minutes for a cool-down rest at least every two hours.
Supervisors were urged to observe employees for alertness and signs of heat illness. Each group of about 20 employees should have a supervisor. If necessary, a buddy system in which employees watch out for each other can be established.
An employee newly assigned to a high heat area should be watched by a supervisor for the first 14 days of their employment in relation to withstanding these conditions.