Help Workers Avoid the Dangers of Heat Stress

As temperatures begin to warm, the risks of heat-induced illnesses increase for millions of workers across the nation. For some, like workers in metal foundry environments, dealing with heat stress is an ever-present working condition. For outdoor workers, the warmer weather brings an increased, often unnoticed, threat of heat-related illnesses and accidents. For all these environments, the right combination of equipment and safety precautions can help workers stay safe and productive.

RefrigiWear (www.refrigiwear.com), a manufacturer of insulated industrial work wear, accessories and equipment, offers these top five tips for educating supervisors and workers on the hazards of working in heat and the benefits of implementing proper controls and practices.

1) Stay hydrated Keeping the body hydrated is the golden rule of combating heat stress. Workers should drink at least a cup of cool water every 30 minutes, every 10-15 minutes for extremely hot conditions.

2) Know your environment Conditions of little wind, high humidity and direct sunlight can all increase the effect of heat stress on the body and lower a person's heat tolerance. Workers should have knowledge of their environment and work to mange their workload to avoid accidents or unscheduled work stoppages.

3) Take a break The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services all agree that toughing it out to finish a task in hot environments can be dangerous and even deadly. Rest breaks are essential to help workers recover from the heat as it allows the heart rate to slow, cooling the body and replacing lost fluids.

4) Know the symptoms Know the warning sign of heat stress; if left untreated, heat stress can lead to heat stroke and possibly death. Symptoms include: headaches; dizziness or lightheadedness; weakness; mood changes such as irritability; confusion, or the inability to think straight; colored urine; feeling faint or passing out; and pale, clammy skin.

5) Stay acclimatized Acclimatization is the gradual process where the body adjusts to higher heat levels. Workers in good physical shape will have an easier time adjusting to warmer working conditions. Full adjustment to the heat takes about 2 weeks, and workers will stay used to the heat as long as they work at least every fourth day in similar conditions. During adjustment periods, it is important to take greater care and follow acclimatization procedures to avoid heat related injuries.

For more information about heat stress, visit the Cold/Heat Stress Safety Zone at www.occupationalhazards.com/safety_zones/30.

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