High temperatures and heavy workloads put workers at risk for developing heat stress during long hot summer months.
Outdoor activities such as construction and oil & gas operations, often require employees to work in direct sunlight underneath layers of bulky protective clothing and equipment. Without a proper way to get rid of excess heat, the body stores it, resulting in heat rash, heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
Other hazards when working in the heat:
Hot weather is responsible for more hospital visits and fatalities than any other weather-related source, and recent statistics suggest it carries heavy human and financial costs for U.S. employers. In 2013, for example, there were 16,320 reports of heat illness so serious it resulted in days away from work, according to the U.S. Office of Compliance, the organization responsible for safety compliance within the legislative branch of the U.S. government. The same year, 38 heat-related occupational fatalities were reported.
Occupational Health & Safety – The Dangers of Heat Stress By Paul Murray, Scott S. Moody – Mar 01, 2017
Through the process of sweating we lose water and electrolytes, which serve as the fuel that powers our body. High heat environments combined with intense physical exertion cause the body to burn through energy at an accelerated rate.
It’s important to allow workers opportunities to recharge by making sure they have access to plenty of water and snacks. Designated cooling stations should be located in convenient areas of the worksite and be equipped with products such as water, sunscreen and first-aid kits.
Supervisors should also develop acclimation schedules for workers who are new, or who have been away from work, which allows them to gradually build up their exposure to heat. This will ensure workloads are evenly distributed and that workers are able to incorporate work/rest cycles.
Employers should create an emergency plan that specifies what to do if a worker exhibits signs of a heat-related illness.