Summer means outdoor fun for many people. But for those who work outside, or for those in heat-susceptible jobs, it can have a different meaning… deadly hot temperatures and dangerous working conditions.
In 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) received more than 200 reports of heat-related worker hospitalizations and at least eight deaths associated with heat exposure, the federal agency stated in a news release.
The agency is currently investigating several worker fatalities reported in 2016.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that some of the most at-risk jobs for heat-related injuries include firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers and factory workers.
According to OSHA, agricultural workers, baggage handlers, electrical power transmission and control workers and landscaping/yard maintenance workers are also highly susceptible to heat injuries.
According to OSHA, you may be at-risk if your job involves:
- Working in direct sunlight
- Performing prolonged or strenuous work
- Wearing heavy protective clothing or impermeable suits
RECOGNIZING HEAT STROKE/EXHAUSTION
The National Weather Service explains how the hot weather can affect a worker in this video.
“It’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness… acting quickly can prevent more serious medical conditions and may even save lives,” OSHA states on its website.
- Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. Call 911 if a coworker shows signs of heat stroke.
- Heat exhaustion is also a serious illness. Symptoms include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating. Heat fatigue, and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of too much heat exposure.
“If you or a coworker has symptoms of heat-related illness, tell your supervisor right away,” OSHA recommends. “If you can, move the person to a shaded area loosen their clothing, give them water (a little at a time), and cool them down with ice packs or cool water.”
HOT WEATHER SAFETY TIPS
OSHA recommends a three-point safety system when working in the heat: Water, Rest, Shade.
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
- Rest in the shade to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Keep an eye on fellow workers.
- Acclimate – “easy does it” on your first days of work; be sure to get used to the heat and allow yourself to build up a tolerance.
“Not being used to the heat is a big problem,” OSHA states, emphasizing the importance of acclimation. “Many of the people who died from heat stress were new to working in the heat or returning from a break. If a worker has not worked in hot weather for a week or more, their body needs time to adjust.”
OSHA offers a free “Heat Safety Tool” app for smart phones, which calculates a site’s heat index and proportional risk levels.