Managing Heat in the Workplace

After some welcomed moderate temperatures for the July 4th weekend, it is predicted to heat up again this week along with higher humidity. Not a surprise, since we are less than a month into summer. With a rise in temperatures, we can never be too cautious about managing our employee’s exposure to the heat and heat related illness. While much of this discussion will focus on the “outdoor exposure”, there can be similar exposure to workers indoors particularly if the operations produce heat.

There are a handful of factors to be aware of when discussing this matter. Most of us have heard of one of the key ones: “heat index.” We hear regularly from our meteorologists over the summer months. What is heat index? It is a single value that take both the temperature and humidity into account. The higher the index, the greater the risk. Humidity can be considered the key in the equation. Higher humidity, common on the East Coast during the summer, can impact our ability to sweat. Sweating is one of our bodies cooling mechanisms. Sweat does not evaporate as quickly when there is more moisture in the air due to higher humidity.

Even though the temperatures this week are projected to be no higher than 92, 3 of the 5 days have predicted heat indexes of more than 113 degrees. That is a high risk or “danger” level according to NOAA.

Other factors to take into account when evaluating the heat exposure:

  • Workers not having previous or recent exposure to heat thus haven’t built up a tolerance (new workers or workers returning from time off- a week or more)
  • Workers in strenuous, labor intense jobs
  • Workers wearing using non breathable protective clothing

What can you do? Be prepared and train your workers.

You can find the projected heat indexes via your local meteorologist. OSHA has a phone app you can use by plugging on the temperature and humidity. In fact, OSHA is a great resource for information and materials related to heat illness:

OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers

Taken from the first page of the OSHA site are some key steps to prevent heat related illness:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes even if you are not thirsty
  • Rest in the shade to cool down
  • Wear a hat and light colored clothing if at all possible
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers
  • “Easy does it” on you first days of work in the heat.

The OSHA resource advises you to remember three simple words, Water, Rest & Shade.

Any questions regarding this? Contact Jeff Hixon, our Vice President of Risk Control and Claims at hixonjl@ecsinsure.com or by phone at 301-948-5800, ext. 169.

Have a great summer and Be Safe!

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