Page 96 - OHS, June 2022
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Indoor Work Settings. ThThe agency said that a standard specifific to heat-related injury and illness prevention would more clearly set forth employer obligations and the measure necessary to effffectively protect employees from hazardous heat.
According to the ANPRM, OSHA is looking into several topics of interest for the new standard.9 These include just a few of the following:
■ Occupational illnesses, injuries and fatalities due to hazardous heat, including their under reporting and magnitude across geographic regions or among various industries, occupations, job tasks or businesses of various sizes
■ Determinants of hazardous occupational heat exposure and heat-related illness in the work place
■ Structure of work and work arrangements affected by hazardous heat
■ Existing efforts on heat illness prevention, including by OSHA, states, employers or other industry associations
■ Heat illness prevention plans and programs
■ Engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment
■ Planning and responding to heat illness emergencies
■ Worker training and engagement
While it is entirely possible to try to predict what OSHA will
include in a possible standard to reduce heat-related illnesses and injuries, it is not worth waiting to find out what the guidelines are before making a move to protect your employees from extreme heat. There are many things that you can start to incorporate now, before a standard has been published.
Safety in Extreme Heat Starts Now
It is never too late to start planning for work under the stare of the hot summer sun. Even in the months where the breeze is cool and the temperatures are pleasant, there are things you can be doing as a safety professional to prepare the workforce for the summer heat—including training workers on the signs of heat- related illnesses.
Training workers to understand and be aware of what happens in the body when it is exposed to extreme heat is one of the most important elements of a heat safety plan. When workers know what signs to look for when working in high heat, they can assess their own physical health for early signs of heat-related illnesses, but also look for signs in their co-workers as well.
Symptoms to look for include dry skin, high body temperature, red skin or rash, rapid pulse, dizziness and confusion. Other symptoms that may be visible to co-workers are slurred speech or an unsteady gait.
Ensure that all workers understand their recommended fluid intake to remain hydrated. OSHA recommends each worker consume at least four 8-ounce cups of water per hour when working in extreme heat, especially when the work is labor intensive. Educate workers on fluids that may actively dehydrate their bodies, such as coffee, tea and sodas. Common sports and energy drinks may feel like they are helping workers get through their shifts, but an excessive amount of sugar can also play a part in dehydrating workers.
Another important part of any heat safety plan is incorporating rest into the work day. Outdoor workers need to take the time to slow, and cool down during their shifts in elevated temperatures.
Employers should try to avoid scheduling work during peak heat hours as well as spread the work out over a longer period of time with more workers in rotation throughout the day. Creating a schedule where workers get an adequate amount of rest throughout the day will also help with new employees coming into the fold who need an increased amount of time to acclimate to the harsh environment.
Getting rest in is a great start, but employers must be mindful of where workers are resting. Rest zones should be set up in places that offer shade from direct sunlight when possible. Supervisors should look for areas with thick foliage above or provide canopies or tents for employees to rest under. Workers should be equipped with wide-brimmed hats and other PPE that can help to keep the direct sunlight off their bodies while working.
Remember, however, if employees are required to wear specific PPE on the job, make sure these garments do not hinder the employee’s ability to cool down. Heavy, stiff and unbreathable fabric make it even hotter for workers in an already unbearable climate and can lead to symptoms of heat-related illnesses faster than normal.
The Future
The fact of the matter is the summers are not getting any cooler. There may be some breezier days here and there, but for the most part, all employers who have job responsibilities in outdoor or high heat indoor environments must take the time—now— to create comprehensive, effective heat safety plans with their employees in mind.
Heat-related illnesses and injuries are entirely preventable. Make the promise to your employees that you will work to ensure their safety—regardless of temperature—today.
Sydny Shepard is the Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine. REFERENCES
1. americans-have-ever-lived-through/
4. pacific-northwest-heat-wave.html
5. united-states-europe-hot-dry-early-look-fa/#:~:text=Over%20the%20 southwest%20and%20east,What%20is%20this%3F&text=Looking%20a- t%20the%20NOAA%20official,States%20is%20warmer%20than%20normal.
7. html#:~:text=Chronic%20heat%20exhaustion%2C%20sleep%20 disturbances,being%20more%20pronounced%20in%20 men.:~:text=Chronic%20heat%20exhaustion%2C%20sleep%20 disturbances,being%20more%20pronounced%20in%20men.
8. environmental-heat-exposure-in-2019.htm
9. October%2027%2C%202021%2C%20OSHA,a%20heat%2Dspecific%20 workplace%20standard.
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