Breezer Mobile Cooling, producer of the Power Breezer evaporative cooling system, believes everyone deserves to be cool and safe. We all wish to work in a safe environment and go home at the end of the day to our families and friends—that is what makes life worth living. In keeping with this ethos, we recently provided heat safety training at the Ohio Safety Congress. While we covered the more obvious issues related to heat safety, we also reminded attendees of economic and legal risks, which often go unrecognized. The following is a summary of what we presented.
Many workers are subject to excessive heat risks. Commonly known physical reactions include heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. Other risks include loss of grip due to sweaty palms, obscured vision from fogged-up safety glasses, and any number of calamities arising from dizziness. To complicate matters, climate change theory predicts even warmer weather in the future: 16 of the 17 hottest global years on record have occurred since 2000. Clearly, employers must keep themselves aware of the problems caused by excessive heat and make plans to circumvent them.
We’re all familiar with the need to take precautions when working outside on a hot summer day. The sun is out, and the work is often strenuous. But similar heat conditions are very often found inside factories, warehouses, maintenance shops, and other workplaces, even during the cooler months. Heat-generating machinery, furnaces, welders, enclosed spaces, and physical exertion all contribute to heat stress risk. Employers should continually assess the work environment to identify such risks.
Heat stress is the body’s response when it can no longer regulate heat within its core. Here are some of the conditions of heat-related illness, from least to most serious:
- Heat rash
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke
Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness, occurs when the body can no longer control its own temperature. During a heat stroke, the victim’s temperature rises to 106 degrees or higher within 10 to 15 minutes, and sweating eventually no longer takes place. Emergency treatment must be given in order to avoid permanent disability or death. The symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Confusion, altered mental state, slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness (coma)
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
- Very high body temperature
Heat stroke is an immediately life-threatening condition. If these symptoms are present, you should dial 911 immediately and seek help. Try to cool the affected person by having them drink water, by fanning them, moving them to shade, spraying water on them, or other means.
Besides the human element, economic considerations provide additional incentive for employers to utilize proper heat safety measures. To start, heat-related occupational illnesses and injuries cost employers when workers’ compensation claims are filed. Second, employees who miss work or cannot return due to heat-related illnesses must be replaced, which means returning to the hiring process and new employee training. Finally, studies show that worker productivity decreases at a 2% rate for every 1.8-degree increase in temperature above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower productivity means lower profit.
A legal incentive also exists. OSHA, recognizing the danger of excessive heat in the workplace, indicates that employers should develop a heat safety plan, to be overseen by a designated person. The plan should include heat index-based escalation along with provisions for water, shade, acclimatization, monitoring, and training. In training, employees should learn the following:
- Common signs and symptoms of heat-related illness
- Proper precautions to prevent heat-related illness
- The importance of acclimatization
- The importance of drinking water frequently (even when not thirsty)
- Steps to take when someone is having symptoms
Employers should be aware of factors that make employees more vulnerable to heat-related illness and make hiring decisions or accommodations accordingly. These factors include age, weight, consumption of alcohol, dehydration, prescription medications, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Accommodations might include a reduced workload, an adjusted work schedule, or established rest periods.
Breezer Mobile Cooling believes that everyone deserves to be cool. And safe.
We provide cooling solutions that help companies keep employees cool and safe where it is otherwise difficult or impossible. Our Power Breezer mobile evaporative cooling system is chemical-free and green-friendly and can be used outdoors (at sporting events or construction sites) or inside (where ordinary cooling systems are inadequate). User controls enable the powerful fan and evaporative cooling technology to be set for the conditions in any climate for the most efficient and effective cooling. And, because the Power Breezer is not a misting fan, it will not get people or equipment wet.
To learn more about how Breezer Mobile Cooling can help your operation develop a heat safety plan, visit PowerBreezer.com today!