High heat and humidity on the job site is a problem that experienced supervisors grapple with every year. Heat stress creates a workplace hazard indoors as well as outdoors and can occur in well-ventilated facilities, brought on by local heat sources such as steam, hot machinery, and engines. Heat illness and deaths have been documented within a heat index as low as 84°F.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers have a duty to protect workers from serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards. Companies who enact procedures to combat heat stress and teach employees how to protect themselves will have safer, more productive workplaces. Here are some recommendations from OSHA that every operational plan should include:
Implement a heat management plan; review and revise it often. Develop the plan before you need it and make sure all supervisors and employees understand how it works. The plan should outline how to protect workers at every heat risk level, from low to extremely high. Make sure it designates a shaded rest area with cooling units, a frequent break schedule, a plan to handle emergencies, and adequate water for the entire crew. The Centers for Disease Control recommends each worker should drink a quart of water every hour to prevent dehydration. Activate your plan if the heat index reaches 80°F or more.
Track the heat index daily, alert workers and re-emphasize preventive measures. NOAA’s heat index system combines air temperature and humidity to measure how hot the weather will feel and help determine the risk for heat-related illness. For example, if the air temperature is 90°F and the humidity is 70 percent, the heat index is 105°F, which means the heat stress risk is high. As the heat index value goes up, more preventive measures are needed to protect workers. To download a free copy of the heat index, click here.
Acclimatize workers to high heat conditions. Workers new to outdoor jobs are generally at highest risk for heat-related illnesses. Gradually increase their workload or allow more frequent breaks to help new workers, and those returning to a job after time away, build up a tolerance for hot conditions. Studies have shown it takes between 5 and 14 days for new and returning workers to acclimate.
Train employees before it gets hot. Train workers about safe work practices before heat index levels go up. Make sure they recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, how to prevent it, and what to do if someone has symptoms. Reinforce the training on hot days.
Cool things down with Power Breezer®
If air conditioning is not practical at your work site, it is simple to set up a cool zone featuring shelter, access to hydration, and a high-efficiency Power Breezer mobile cooling unit. Cooling your workforce will help keep them aware and productive, the effect will be lower insurance costs, less worker compensation claims, and an overall increase in profitability. Energy efficient, easy to operate, and completely portable, Power Breezer provides 70° of oscillation and can lower the air temperature by up to 27°F.
To learn how the Power Breezer can help your workforce stay cool, safe and productive in the hottest conditions, visit powerbreezer.com.