Page 20 - OHS, June 2022
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Svitlana Hulko/
How to Work Safely in the Earth’s Rising Temperatures
When working in the heat, taking the right steps to ensure safety is essential.
As industrial workforces await OSHA heat standards, it’s important to get safety managers and workers up to speed on heat safety. It’s an issue that’s been around for decades, and dangerous heat now kills more Americans than any other weather-related event, but it’s only recently starting to get more attention.
Understanding heat safety starts with understanding basic heat stress physiology. The body wants to maintain its temperature where it’s most comfortable and works most efficiently. This temperature is typically around 97.9 to 98.8 degrees Fahrenheit (about 36.6 to 37.1 degrees Celsius). The two main ways the body keeps itself in this narrow range is through shivering to increase heat production or losing heat through an increase in sweating and blood flow to the skin.
Proper Acclimatization is Step One
Most heat-related deaths and injuries occur in the first few days on the job. Heat acclimatization can help prevent this. Heat acclimatization is a process where your body undergoes physiological changes that allow it to better handle the heat—
which means that your performance in the heat will improve and you are less likely to suffer from heat-related problems. Getting properly acclimatized to intense heat is different for everyone, but the principles are the same—to ease into it. Spending too much time in the heat early on is a recipe for disaster, so increase that time during the first one to two weeks of work.
If working in an environment with heavy equipment or PPE, start with minimal clothing and work up to full PPE. If possible, start by wearing the most minimal clothing layer on the first one to two days of heat exposure, and then slowly add each additional clothing layer (every one to two days) to give the body time to adjust during the acclimatization period.
Remember, don’t push too hard in the first week. After acclimatization, there will be some noticeable physiological changes. Sweat rate will increase, allowing your body to better cool itself. In addition, your heart rate will be lower and core/skin temperature will be lower because your body is staying cooler.
Some research suggests that men and women respond differently to heat acclimatization. Women have lower sweat rates and are more frequently diagnosed as heat intolerant compared
18 Occupational Health & Safety | JUNE 2022

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