Heat is the number one weather-related killer in the U.S., claiming more lives each year than floods, lightning, tornadoes, and hurricanes combined (NOAA).
Thousands of outdoor and warehouse workers experience heat illness every year. These often manifest as heat exhaustion which can quickly become heat stroke if we’re not careful.
“Heat and humidity are a serious safety threat to workers during the summer—from utility workers, to agriculture, construction, firefighters, roadway workers, and more,” says the American Society of Safety and Engineers President Terrie S. Norris. “People should heed the heat warnings and act quickly when they begin to feel any heat-related symptoms.”
It becomes very dangerous when one’s body is unable to cool itself by sweating. Body temperatures rise to dangerous levels if precautions aren’t taken. This is especially important to heed for anyone working somewhere with limited air movement, physical exertion, using bulky protective clothing and equipment, and inadequate preparation in hot workplaces.
OSHA notes that symptoms for heat stroke include dry, hot skin with no sweating; mental confusion or losing consciousness; which can lead to seizures and convulsions. To prevent heat stress, you need to monitor your co-workers and yourself.
To prevent heat stress, officials suggest you monitor your co-workers and yourself. Prevention efforts include blocking out direct sun or other heat sources; using cooling fans or air conditioning; resting regularly; and wearing lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Drinking a lot of water, about one cup every 15 minutes, is important.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution, some suggested tips for employees and employers to use in order to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries include:
- Use cooling pads that can be inserted into hardhats or around the neck to keep the head and neck cool. Vented hardhats or neckbands soaked in cold water can also be used to minimize prolonged heat exposure and prevent the body from overheating.
- Wear protective eyewear that features sufficient ventilation or anti-fog lens coating to reduce lens fogging from the heat. Sweatbands can also be used to prevent perspiration from dripping into the eyes.
- Use gloves with leather palms and cotton or denim backs, which allow for an increased airflow and still protect hands. Also, choose gloves with a liner to absorb sweat preventing perspiration buildup. Some gloves also feature strips of nylon mesh or are perforated at the back of the hand for more airflow.
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
- Take breaks in cool, shaded areas.
- To prevent dehydration, drink cool water and avoid diuretics such as coffee, tea, alcohol, or soda, as these can deplete body fluid.
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