Heat Stress

Heat Stress

Many people are exposed to heat on the job, outdoors or in hot indoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness. Workplaces with these conditions may include iron and steel foundries, nonferrous foundries, brick-firing and ceramic plants, glass products facilities, rubber products factories, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, confectioneries, commercial kitchens, laundries, food canneries, chemical plants, mining sites, smelters, and steam tunnels.

Outdoor operations conducted in hot weather and direct sun, such as farm work, construction, oil and gas well operations, asbestos removal, landscaping, emergency response operations, and hazardous waste site activities, also increase the risk of heat-related illness in exposed workers.

Every year, thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure, and some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.

Heat stress training  is one of the newest CAL/OSHA’s training requirement programs. All employees exposed to work conditions of 90 degrees Fahrenheit over eight hours need this training. Employees are required to provide environmental controls such as fans, shade, A/C when ever practical. Training is the key for dealing with the heat and the topics of proper hydration, electrolyte intake and rest are key to a successful program. During training the symptoms of heat stress, stroke and emergency care are discussed and reviewed. This training needs to be given yearly.

The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and can result in death.

Employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. Employers should provide workers with water, rest and shade; should gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more to build a tolerance for working in the heat (acclimatization); and should educate workers about the symptoms heat-related illnesses and their prevention. Employers should also include the steps to prevent heat illness in worksite training and plans as well as what to do in an emergency. A

Remember these three simple words: Water, Rest, Shade. Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death.