Many of us look forward to the warm summer and the outdoor adventures that come with those days. While sunshine can make a day enjoyable it can also be a grave danger to workers who spend their day outside or in a high temperature environment. Knowing about the dangers of overexposure can help to keep you safe in a potentially dangerous environment.
Statistics show employees are most susceptible to heat borne illness when they are new to a position or returning from time off (Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA). Those most at risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion need to ease back their duties with care and awareness of the dangers. OSHA recommends a three-step process to stay safe; Water, Rest and Shade. As a new or returning worker, it is recommended by OSHA for one to take more frequent breaks while getting water and taking a rest in the shade. It’s imperative you give yourself time to build up a tolerance. Keep in mind heat related illness can affect not only those that are new or returning to work, but any worker not taking proper precautions working in a high temperature environment.
To prevent heat related illness and fatalities do the following:
- Drink water every 15 minutes even when you’re 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 co-workers
- “Easy does it” on your first days of work in high temperatures or a high temp environment. You need to get used to it.
Know the signs of heat related illness. For heat exhaustion a person will exhibit dizziness, headache, sweaty skin, weakness, cramps, nausea, vomiting and a rapid heart beat. Those experiencing heat stroke will exhibit red, hot, dry skin, confusion, a high temperature, fainting and convulsions. If a worker becomes ill, notify a supervisor- If a supervisor is not available call 911. Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives.
The new OSHA Heat Safety Tool (a smartphone app for both Android and Apple users) can give a heat index rating based on your work conditions of temperature and humidity. Along with the rating, the information will display the risk level to outdoor workers. Download and use this tool to assess the working environment and be prepared where heat is concerned.
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