[Editor’s Note: We sat down with the folks at TSI to discuss heat stress monitoring programs—and the company’s unique solutions and capabilities for managing heat stress.]
Why is it important to establish a heat stress monitoring program?
Millions of workers in the U.S. are exposed to heat in the workplace each year. In 2017 and 2018, there were a total of 30 fatalities recorded specific to heat-related illness by OSHA, most often from heat stroke1. The main goal of safety and health programs is to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths.2 A well-implemented heat stress monitoring program modifies the safety culture from reacting to and treating heat-related illness to preventing disability or death—to instead being proactive and preventing it from occurring.
What specifically needs to be included in a heat stress-management program?
A well laid-out program should include:
- Educating workers on heat stress and heat-related illness and their causes
- Knowing what symptoms to watch for and how to respond
- Creating an acclimatization schedule for experienced and inexperienced workers
- Policies for controlling heat hazards
- Establishing a work-to-rest and hydration program
- Accounting for the impact clothing can have in contributing to heat stress
- Having instrumentation to monitor the risk level and a response plan for different risk levels
- Implementing engineering controls when possible
How is environmental heat stress measured? How can such data be used to help safeguard workers?
Environmental heat stress is typically measured through heat index or wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT). The significant drawback to heat index is that radiant heat, the effect the sun has on a worker outdoors, is not considered.
A WBGT meter is the most accurate tool for adjusting the temperature for heat stress factors, including humidity, air movement (i.e., wind), radiant heat and temperature. 2
To help safeguard workers against heat stress, the WBGT data can be referenced against work to rest and hydration guidelines from ACGIH, OSHA, ISO, or NIOSH. These guidelines consider the worker’s workload and the WBGT reading (plus clothing factors) to make recommendations.
2OSHA Technical Manual, Section III: Chapter 4
How can heat stress monitoring be used to stay in compliance?
Although there is increasing pressure for compliance standards to be enacted specific to protecting workers from heat-related illness, this remains under OSHA’s general duty clause. Exposure to excessive heat is considered a recognized hazard from which the employers must protect employees. Because there is not a specific standard and guidance from OSHA, the WBGT monitor is an incredibly helpful instrument to demonstrate to compliance officers the employer is taking steps to protect workers from heat stress. WBGT monitors provide data that can be quickly referenced against best practice guidelines, such as ACGIH, to implement preventive measures and protect workers.
Please explain TSI’s heat stress solutions; their capabilities; and what you want our audience to know about them.
TSI’s solution for supporting the prevention of heat-related illnesses is the QUESTemp° Heat Stress Monitor. This product series measures WBGT with a high degree of accuracy. It is straightforward for anyone to operate and integrate into their heat stress-safety program. The instrument provides work-to-rest guidance per ACGIH and U.S. military guidelines, making it easier to know when safety precautions are recommended. QUESTemp products come both in a traditional wet bulb and waterless wet bulb options. IHW