Page 18 - OHS, June 2022
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Remember, OSHA is getting ready to make this a regulation or mandate. That means there will be mandatory paperwork involved.
that contribute to heat related illnesses isn’t enough. It is also important to know the signs of the four common heat illnesses and how to treat them.
The Four Types of Heat-Related Illnesses
There are many types of illnesses and injuries that can result from extreme heat, but the most common are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rashes. Let’s take a look at each of these:
Heat stroke. The body temperature rises to critical levels of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. The worker exhibits the signs of heat stroke, including confusion, loss of consciousness and possibly seizures. Sweating, the body’s main temperature regulation system, ceases. Make no mistake, this is a life-threatening situation—call 911 immediately and get medical help.
Heat exhaustion. Unlike heat stroke, the worker will be sweating heavily, with a body temp of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Other signs are weakness, irritability, confusion and heavy thirst, along with nausea, dizziness and a headache.
Heat cramps. Caused by the loss of body salts and fluids, usually the result of heavy sweating. Drinking water or carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement drinks (sports drinks) every 15 to 20 minutes helps alleviate the symptoms. While not immediately life-threatening, a cramp at the wrong time can be disastrous. Think about when you are climbing a ladder. It’s definitely not a good time to cramp up.
Heat rashes. They show up as a small red cluster of pimples or blisters. Any place there’s skin-on-skin contact or loose or tight damp clothing is present, rashes can develop.
What Employers Should Do to Help
Mitigate Heat Related Illnesses
Some employers may already have taken steps to protect workers who work in the sun or other hot environments. One of the key steps now is to make sure it’s documented properly. Remember, OSHA is getting ready to make this a regulation or mandate. That means there will be mandatory paperwork involved.
OSHA already has instructions to prevent and mitigate heat- related illnesses.4 While most are fairly common sense, let’s outline a few. Of course, it all begins with having a heat illness prevention plan created or in the works. You can be certain it will be a requirement in the future.
Creation of the plan means that someone should be in charge of developing the plan and overseeing the execution of it. Educating your workers and supervisors will be an important part of the plan. Make sure they know the danger signs of heat-related illnesses, they know the symptoms and they are encouraged to watch out for their coworkers.
Daily jobsite supervision and monitoring are important. A set of eyes looking specifically for heat stress problems is valuable.
Other questions and factors to be considered are:
■ How are you going to handle new hires and temp workers who are not yet acclimatized to the heat?
■ Do you have the medical capability to handle or respond to these illnesses?
■ Do you have the proper protocols in place to get outside medical assistance if needed?
■ Have you considered engineering controls and best work practices that could mitigate risk?
■ Are you monitoring National Weather Service bulletins and what are your steps in the event of a heat advisory or warning?
■ If the heat index determines that work should be paused or cancelled, do you have documentation in place to show your responsibilities?
Here’s something else to think about: We are coming off the cooler winter weather and heading toward a hot season. Some personal protective equipment (PPE) used during the winter may seem too uncomfortable to use during the heat of summer. While some bulky coats and such can be ditched for cooler alternatives, many PPE items cannot. They’re still necessary for worker protection in certain circumstances.
Hard hats, for example, must still be worn in many applications no matter how hot they feel to the worker. However, new products are available that can keep the worker’s head cooler while still keeping them protected. For example, hard hats that feature thermal barrier technology can keep the interior of a hard hat up to 20 degrees cooler in sunny conditions. Additional PPE including sunshades, sun shields and cooling neck wraps can also help maintain worker comfort and safety in sunny conditions.
Maintaining worker safety and keeping up with OSHA regulations may mean providing seasonally appropriate PPE for hot, sunny conditions. In the long run, won’t those measures be worth it?
Dennis Capizzi is currently the Segment Marketing Manager for Protection Products at MSA Safety. He began his career with the company as the marketing event coordinator before transitioning into a product management role and finally into segment marketing. He has been responsible for respiratory, head/eye/face/hearing, and fall protection across both the industrial and first responder market.
2. releases/2021/09/20/fact-sheet-biden-administration-mobilizes-to- protect-workers-and-communities-from-extreme-heat/
3. heat-injury-and-illness-prevention-in-outdoor-and-indoor-work-settings
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