Finding Heat Stress Solutions

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Posted by Heidi Schwartz

Heat Fatalities

This map shows locations of outdoor worker, heat-related fatalities between 2008 and 2013. It is not an exhaustive list of all worker fatalities from heat exposure during this time period. It includes only those fatalities that involve workers who are covered by either the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Federal OSHA) or a State OSHA plan. (Photo: OSHA)

Every summer thousands of workers—particularly those in agriculture, landscaping, construction, utilities, and support activities for oil and gas operations—spend long days working in the hot sun. Excessive heat and sun pose many dangers: sunburn, dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Every year, many become ill or lose their lives due to heat exposure.

The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) urges outdoor workers to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids such as water or electrolyte-replacing beverages. Hydration helps to prevent dehydration which is the primary cause of both heat cramps and heat exhaustion. Taking breaks and cool down periods, as well as wearing heat stress protection safety equipment will help reduce heat related illnesses.

“When high heat environments are unavoidable, certain types of personal protective equipment can be incorporated as preventive measures,” stated ISEA President Daniel K. Shipp. “ISEA encourages employers to stay current on cooling products and prevention of heat stress to enable employees to protect themselves in these situations.”

To minimize contact with excess heat, ISEA recommends these interventions for outdoor workers:

  • Use cooling vests and other cooling clothing or accessories to help keep overall body temperature at a moderate level.
  • Wear broad-brimmed hats and lightweight clothing to reduce direct sun exposure.
  • Wear lightweight, sweat wicking, fast-drying clothes. Sweat causes the body to work even harder to stay cool as it adds an insulating layer to the skin.
  • Use OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool Smartphone App available at OSHA.gov.
  • Download ISEA’s list of suggested manufacturers and distributors that provide heat stress solutions at www.safetyequipment.org.

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