Heat Exposure: Keep It Top of Mind
Employers are wise to remember their responsibility to protect workers from extreme heat as the summer approaches in New England.
Every year, dozens of workers die, and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions.
According to OSHA, most outdoor fatalities occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments.
It takes time for workers to build a tolerance to the heat. Lack of acclimatization represents a major risk for fatal outcomes.
OSHA workplace standards include protecting workers from heat-related hazards.
OSHA reminds employers when workers are exposed to high temperatures, company leaders should establish a complete heat illness prevention program including:
- Providing workers with water, rest, and shade.
- Allowing new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
- Planning for emergencies and training workers on prevention.
- Monitoring workers for signs of illness.
It is critical that supervisors undergo training as well to learn about prevention and responses to heat-related incidents.
Below are a few heat-related illnesses and signs to be aware of that OSHA provides:
- Slurred speech
- Heavy sweating or hot, dry skin
- Very high body temperature
- Rapid heart rate
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Heavy sweating
- Elevated body temperature or fast heart rate
- Muscle spasms or pain, typically in legs, arms, or trunk
- Clusters of red bumps on skin
- Often appears on neck, upper chest, and skin folds
Rhabdomyolysis (Muscle breakdown):
- Muscle pain
- Dark urine or reduced urine output
Officials with OSHA will offer heat exposure advice for employers in a webinar series, through the National Safety Education Center this month.
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