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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Heat-related illnesses

Posted by on in Uncategorized

We all know how hot it starts to get this time of year, but we don’t always appreciate how quickly heat-related stress can lead to serious health problems. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. To help call attention to that fact, the National Weather Service sponsors Heat Safety Awareness Day on the last Friday of May just a few weeks ahead of the official beginning of summer.

Heat safety awareness has year-round place in workplace safety plans, but it is especially important during the summer months.

Heat stress related injuries are often the result of the body’s inability to cope with prolonged exposure to extreme heat. It is of particular concern during the summer months, especially for people who work in factories, in construction, or on farms.

People at increased risk of heat stress include those 65 years of age or older, those who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications that can be affected by extreme heat.
Being aware of the health and safety risks posed by exposure to heat in the workplace is a year-round concern, even in workplaces where temperatures can be regulated. In addition to burns from accidental direct contact with steam or hot surfaces, heat can also indirectly lead to other injuries by causing sweaty palms, fogged eyewear, and dizziness.

Preventing heat stress in employees is as important an aspect of safety plan design as any other. Employers need to educate workers on what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) offers a number of resources on heat safety at work, from fact sheets and infographics to blog posts and planning documents available at https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

A key aspect of employee safety involves training on how to limit heat exposure and how to identify signs of heat-related illness. We tend to think of heat-related illnesses as occurring most often in outdoor environments during the summer months, and with good reason. According to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011, 4,420 workers were affected by heat-related illnesses and 61 workers died as a result of them. Even indoors, heat exposure from various sources can lead to illness, accidents and unsafe work conditions in general. Not surprisingly, like an increasing number of life situations, there’s an app for that. Make that several.

OSHA’s heat stress app (OSHA Heat Safety Tool) “allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite.” That’s according to the agency’s website. When supplied with temperature and humidity information, the app makes a quick calculation to determine the heat index – a fairly realistic measure of what the environment actually feels like. The app goes a step further by offering specific precautions to take based on the calculated heat index. Useful as it may be in assessing a present situation, its value as a planning tool is limited.

Enter the Maximum Heat Index Forecasts page from the National Weather Service. While not a smartphone app, the page is easy to access from a variety of devices and provides the heat index forecast for the next five days.
The page starts off by showing the heat forecast three to seven days from the present date. By clicking on the small map in the left-most column for a given day, the user can view a larger, color-coded map filled with that date’s predicted maximum heat index values. It’s possible also to click on other cities in a given area to view a specific forecast presented in the form of a table. All this is great when you want to look ahead several days. In the short term – say, when you want to know about maximum index forecast for today or tomorrow – the NWS forecast webpage draws a blank.

The workaround? It’s possible to view an hour-by-hour heat index forecast from the local NWS forecast page.

Navigate to www.weather.gov and input your zip code or city. On the local forecast webpage, scroll down and click on the hourly weather forecast graph in the right column. Presto. There, in the top part of the graph, is the hourly heat index.
If all this seems very useful but a bit clunky, it also serves to point the way to the development of a streamlined app that can provide NWS heat index forecast information in real time. Web developers, take note.

Posted by on in Uncategorized

With the wide temperature swings we’ve had here in the Midwest this spring, sometimes it can be hard to believe that summer and the heat-related health and safety concerns it brings is nearly here.

To draw attention to this fact, some states observe a Heat Safety Awareness or Heat Awareness Day each year in the mid- to late spring each year. Being aware of the health and safety risks posed by exposure to heat in the workplace is a year-round concern.

Heat stress related injuries are often the result of the body’s inability to cope with prolonged exposure to extreme heat. It is of particular concern during the hot summer months, particularly for people who work in factories, in construction, or in agriculture. In its materials – fact sheets, posters, quick cards, training guides, and wallet cards – OSHA makes it clear that workers at risk include anyone who is exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially anyone performing heavy work tasks and/or using bulky personal protective equipment. Those at greater risk of heat stress include people 65 years of age or older, those who are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take medications that can be affected by extreme heat.

Prevention of heat stress in employees is as important as any aspect of safety plan design. Employers need to train to workers to understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. Heat can also indirectly lead to other injuries by causing sweaty palms and dizziness. With summer on our doorstep, now is a good time to review how your workplace safety plans address employee heat exposure through engineering controls and preventive work practices.

OSHA makes it clear that employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from excessive heat. That can also include furnishing workers with water, rest and shade, as well as education about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and their prevention. For example, being able to “take the heat” is a gradual process, and some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not yet built up a tolerance to hot conditions. For those reasons, OSHA recommends allowing more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away from the job for a week or more in order to acclimatize to conditions.

For its part, the agency is continuing its nationwide campaign to raise awareness and educate employers and workers on the hazards of working in the heat, along with steps to take in preventing heat-related illnesses and death. The message contained in the campaign’s slogan “Water, Rest, Shade” has already reached nearly 11 million people since it began in 2011, according to OSHA.

Worksite training and plans should also address the steps to take both to prevent heat illness and what to do in an emergency. Prompt, proper action really can save lives.

OSHA's main safety points for people who work in hot environments are:
•Drink water every 15 minutes, even if 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 fellow workers.

OSHA maintains a dedicated webpage, https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html, that includes a heat safety tool app, a training guide and lesson plan, and other resources all aimed at keeping worker health and safety risks low when the mercury starts to head skyward.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a report on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's review of 20 heat-related enforcement cases from 2012 to 2013. OSHA's analysis suggests that the primary risk factor for heat fatalities is the lack of acclimatization programs.

Of the 13 enforcement cases involving worker fatalities, nine of the deaths occurred in the first three days of working on the job, while four of them occurred on the worker's first day. In all cases, heat illness prevention programs were found to be incomplete or absent and no provision was made for acclimatizing new workers to the heat.

Read entire article: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=26502

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