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Heat Safety & Heat-Related Illnesses

While Summertime for most means enjoying time out on the lake, fishing for that trophy bass, going to the neighborhood pool, or maybe a round of golf or two in the mornings, for some it means that their jobs just got a little more dangerous. According to BLS (Bureau of Labor and Statistics), more than 70,000 workers were seriously injured, and 815 workers were killed due to heat related illnesses in between 1992-2017.

Many workers around the U.S. have jobs that include work activities that must be performed outside often in extreme temperature climates. To workers such as welders, landscapers, construction workers, or agriculture workers, heat related illness is one of the most dangerous hazards they face during this time of year.

The major heat related illnesses to be on a look out for are Heat Rash, Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and the worst being Heat Stroke, a life threatening condition in which the body has abandoned all efforts to cool itself. These types of illnesses can happen in a variety of situations regarding a person’s health and the work environment, however, the risk for heat-related illnesses is higher when the three following conditions are present:

  • Ambient temperature is above 70 degrees
  • 70% humidity or higher
  • Poor air movement

The body’s main way of cooling itself is to sweat, but this might not be enough if your temperature is rising faster than it can cool down.

Below are some helpful tips to keep you healthy and cool during extreme temperatures:

  • Wear appropriate clothing when applicable (lightweight, light colored, and loose fitting).
  • Try to limit work to the hours when it’s coolest.
  • Stay Hydrated. Drinking sugary or alcoholic beverages can lead to further de-hydration. If drinking sports drinks, then keeping it a 4:1 ratio with water is the best way to replenish electrolytes without compromising hydration.
  • Keep good airflow through general ventilation or by local exhaust ventilation.
  • Add shaded areas to workplaces.

Some of the common symptoms you will see with heat related illnesses are:

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dry Mouth
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Weakness
  • Confusion or Anxiety
  • Drenching sweats often accompanied by cold, clammy skin

At CUST-O-FAB we use numerous administrative and engineering controls to help combat heat. For example, when heat index levels get at or above 90ºF shaded areas must be provided. When the heat index levels reach 105ºF the CUST-O-FAB’s hydration cool-down/rest log will be posted in designated hydration areas.

For employees that are working in the shops, CUST-O-FAB provides bottled water when the heat index reaches 100ºF and supervision conducts enhanced monitoring of the employees to identify signs of heat-related illnesses.

Some additional useful resources (as well as the NIOSH HEAT SAFETY APP) are listed below: