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Occupational Heat Exposure

This topic is nothing new's always a good reminder as we sometimes can get relaxed on heat related topics. Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. There is a range of heat illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition. Exposure can happen both indoors and out. Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.
  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade;

  • Allow 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;

  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention; and

  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

Planning and Supervision Plan ahead to protect workers. Creating a written plan to prevent heat-related illness will help. Some important elements to consider when creating the heat plan are:

  • Who will provide oversight on a daily basis?

  • How will new workers gradually develop heat tolerance?

  • Temporary workers may be more susceptible to heat and require closer supervision.

  • Workers returning from extended leave (typically defined as more than two weeks) may also be at increased risk.

  • How will the employer ensure that first aid is adequate and the protocol for summoning medical assistance in situations beyond first-aid is effective?

  • What engineering controls and work practices will be used to reduce heat stress?

  • How will heat stress be measured?

  • How will the employer respond when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or heat warning?

  • How will the employer determine if the total heat stress is hazardous?

  • What training will be provided to workers?

Day-to-Day Supervision Day-to-day supervision should be established through at least one individual at the worksite. This individual (or group) should be responsible for monitoring conditions and implementing the employer's heat plan throughout the workday. Such supervisorscan be foremen, job-site supervisors, plant managers, safety directors, or anyone else with the proper training. Proper training includes knowing how to:

  • Identify and control heat hazards;

  • Recognize early symptoms of heat stress;

  • Administer first aid for heat-related illnesses; and

  • Activate emergency medical services quickly when needed.

Ideally, the individual who is responsible for the heat plan should be on-site, where the workers are. On-site monitoring allows accurate determination of heat stress. In some industries with a widely distributed workforce, such as mail and package delivery, on-site monitoring might not be feasible. In those cases, the responsible individual at the site should be fully trained on the means and methods to contact and report to the employer any adverse heat related conditions that may develop on the site as well as any signs and symptoms of heat related illness experienced by any of the workers. Keeping everyone safe in high heat work conditions is a necessity! We at Worker Care are here to help answer any questions you might have regarding the symptoms and signs of heat exhaustion and provide care to you or your employees if non-life threatening symptoms arise.

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