Date ArticleType
6/15/2017 Safety Flash
Protecting Workers from Heat Illness

Protecting Workers from Heat Illness


Heat_Illness - July 2017 Safety Flash

Working in the heat is one of the most dangerous hazards in construction. Heat stress results from four environmental factors:  temperature, humidity, radiant heat, and air movement. Heat-induced illnesses occur when stress created by heat exceeds the body’s capacity to maintain normal body functions. At a certain point, the body’s cooling mechanisms can no longer keep up and the body’s inner core temperature begins to rise.

Contributing to a person’s sensitivity to heat and susceptibility to heat disorders are age, weight, physical fitness, metabolism, alcohol and drug use, general medical condition and the type of clothing worn. Workers who have heart or circulatory diseases, or are taking prescription drugs may be at an increased risk in a high heat stress environment.
In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job.

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program. Citing the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, courts have interpreted that to mean an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard.

Numerous resources from OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are available to help safety professional educate workers on prevention, knowing the symptoms, and treatment. Be sure to review these resources.

Best Practices

Here are a few practical ways to keep workers cool.

Communicate throughout the day with your employees and practice 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.

Balance water intake with drinking something that returns electrolytes to our body such as Overtime or Sqwincher. Overtime has zero sugar and higher potassium.

Develop a Heat Kit to keep on job sites close to where employees are working. The kit should be a small cooler containing cool water and damp towels.
heatkit2 - July 2017 Safety Flash

Provide plenty of accessible water. PBI devised this homemade water cooler with hand pump using readily available products for under $70.
cooler - July 2017 Safety Flash

Provide a trailer or tent as designated cool down areas. In addition to providing shade, equip the area with cool vests, such as Veskimo, and fans or misting fans, if possible.

Help educate others and prevent injuries

This Safety Flash was contributed by Ed Valencia, Peterson Beckner Industries, in cooperation with SEAA’s Safety Committee. It is designed to keep members informed about ongoing safety issues and to provide suggestions for reducing risk. Best practices are gathered from a variety of sources. They may be more or less stringent than individual corporate policies, and are not intended to be an official recommendation from SEAA. Always get approval and direction from your company officers on any new practice or procedure as these best practices may not work for all situations.

Everyone benefits when a worker avoids injury.

Submit your ideas for Safety Flash to Use the Near Miss/Incident Investigation Report form.