Welcome to 360training.com’s new video series covering OSHA 10 and 30 hour training topics for the construction and general industry. In this series we will be going into specific regulatory information regarding environmental, health, and safety initiatives that will help you be better equipped to take the OSHA 10 or 30 hour class. I’m Matt Luman, 360training.com’s OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for Construction and General Industry.
During these summer months, we are constantly focused on heat stress. As part of OSHA’s General Duty clause, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”
A huge hazard that can be fully mitigated is heat stress. Workers exposed to hot and humid weather are at risk particularly employees doing heavy lifting or wearing thick personal protective equipment. New workers, temporary workers and those returning from a longer absence will find it difficult to adjust to the heat conditions.
Any worker can be negatively affected by heat, whether the source is environmental or job specific.
Environmental factors that can contribute to heat stress aside from high temperature and humidity levels are the following:
- Radiant Heat Sources – the effect felt when near something generating heat like a stovetop, a hot roof or certain confined spaces.
- Direct contact with hot objects.
- Direct sun exposure.
- Limited air movement.
Job Specific Factors
Working in certain industries can cause heat stress, especially those where physical exertion is involved and use of bulky or non-breathable protective equipment or clothing.
The human body is pretty amazing because it does everything in order to keep our body temperature at a stable level. Working under the scorching sun can lead to heat illness and even fatalities. OSHA states that “heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and can result in death.”
Heat Rash – This happens when the skin is irritated by sweat that did not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.
Heat cramps – Caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating leading to painful cramps. Tired muscles used for performing the work are usually the ones most affected by cramps which may occur during or after working hours.
Heat exhaustion – The body’s response to loss of water and salt from sweating heavily. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating.
Heat stroke – the most serious form of heat-related illness which happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs may include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may cause fatalities. If you think that a colleague is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately.
Heat Illness Prevention
In order to help control these risks, OSHA suggests employers to keep in mind “Water. Rest. Shade” and implement the following:
- Modify work conditions – taking breaks during the hottest part of the day.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Limit caffeine intake.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade to cool your body temperature.
- Look out for yourself and workers around you for the signs and symptoms of heat stress.
Utilizing today’s technology, OSHA has released a Heat Safety Tool App which makes available significant information about heat safety by being able to calculate the heat index and risk levels. The app also shows reminders about preventive measures to take in order to lower the possibility of heat illness.
Heat stress is a serious issue that can have deadly consequences. On the bright side, with the proper precautions in place and the right safety training, it’s fully preventable!