Stay Cool: Keeping Up with the Latest Tech & Trends to Prevent Heat Illness
With the summer months in full swing, there is a treacherous word that springs to mind quickly within the industry: heat. While most are enjoying the recreational activities the sunshine months have to offer, construction managers, warehouse workers and other industry-related personnel will be trying to beat the heat—and all the hazards that come with it. According to the World Health Organization, heat exposure will openly lead to 38,000 unnecessary deaths during the 2030s. (IHW, May 2022) Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace is here to help you plan for success in your field. This article will explore the three key questions one must answer to successfully apply safe and efficient practices for heat illness prevention in the workplace.
Question 1: Employers, What is Your Heat Illness Prevention Plan?
First, let’s tackle these questions: what is a heat illness prevention plan? What does is look like?
OSHA states that it’s “a written plan to prevent heat-related illness,” and they provide important factors to consider when implementing and creating your written plan for employees to follow:
- Who will provide oversight on a daily basis?
- How will new workers gradually develop heat tolerance?
- Temporary workers may be more susceptible to heat and require closer supervision.
- Workers returning from extended leave (typically defined as more than two weeks) may also be at increased risk.
- How will the employer ensure that first aid is adequate and the protocol for summoning medical assistance in situations beyond first aid is effective?
- What engineering controls and work practices will be used to reduce heat stress?
- How will heat stress be measured?
- How to respond when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or heat warning?
- How will we determine if the total heat stress is hazardous?
- What training will be provided to workers and supervisors? (OSHA)
It is critical to consider all these factors when creating a prevention plan. Make sure the foreman, jobsite supervisor, plant manager, safety director or anyone else with the proper training always has access to visuals and copies of the plan, so they can properly manage and adjust procedures based on changing conditions and temperatures daily. This will help create a work environment that is conscious to the signs and factors that contribute to heat-related stress and illnesses. It truly takes a community and training to implement procedures and having a plan for everyone to access helps cultivate awareness and science-based precautions in the work environment.
Question 2: Do You Have Good Quality PPE?
Where engineering controls and safe work practices are the main factors to reducing heat stress in a work environment, well-constructed and thought-out PPE purchases can also impact employees’ comfort and reduce heat-stress during the hottest months of the year. The newest products often involve wearable technology, like a device that is worn on a worker’s upper arm. Such products contain sensors that monitor the individual’s physiological responses to heat in real-time. The algorithm in the device can precisely measure workers’ body temperature at rest, during physical activity, in cool, hot and humid conditions. (IHW, August 2021)
This type of technology allows managers to make informed, data-driven decisions and prevent heatstroke and dehydration. The device also alerts the worker via smartphone that their core temperature has dropped to unsafe levels, thus alerting them to rest in shade and hydrate before symptoms set in and it is too late.
Heat stress monitors, like the ones offered at TSI, can also be a vital tool and solution. The monitors eliminate daily maintenance and give convenient stay time parameters per multiple standards, helping determine work-rest ratios and IP 54 ingress ratings, which helps protect units from exposure to dirt, dust, oil and water. Insulated suits, reflective clothing, infrared reflecting face shields and cooling neck wraps can also take workplace environments to the next level in terms of safety and productivity during the summer.
Question 3. How Are Your Workers Hydrating?
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but proper hydration can often get overlooked on a busy workday. Making sure your staff has access to water throughout the workday is very important. For short jobs, OSHA recommends workers drink at least one cup (8 oz.) of water every 20 minutes while working in the heat—not just when they get thirsty. Drinking frequently and before the feeling of thirst sets in keeps the human body protected from dehydration.
For longer workdays, “employers should provide electrolyte-containing beverages such as sports drinks.” (OSHA) The body loses salt and other electrolytes when sweat is produced, and water cannot replace electrolytes, so beverages like Ready/Go Hydration’s selection of lemonades, and other types of sports drink beverages are needed. Make sure whatever drink you are providing is stored in a familiar and accessible area for workers, so they can gain access to it quickly and easily.
For more information about preventing heat-stress and illness, please be sure to utilize these resources, and do your part to keep the industry workers hydrated and healthy this summer season. IHW