Millions of workers across the United States encounter extreme heat in their work environments, with thousands falling ill annually and some even losing their lives. As a result, heat stress has been a growing concern for regulatory bodies worldwide for the past few years, with many taking a harder stance on prevention efforts.
In this article, we'll explore the basics of heat stress & prevention, how it influences worker safety and productivity, and the steps organizations can take to protect employees.
Work-related heat stress occurs when the body's heat-regulating tools struggle to maintain a healthy internal temperature due to excessive heat exposure. This can lead to various heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Workplace risk factors contributing to heat illness include strenuous physical tasks, hot or warm ambient conditions, lack of acclimatization, and clothing that retains body heat.
The effects of work-related heat stress go beyond physical discomfort. Employees subjected to excessive heat are more prone to fatigue, reduced concentration, and decreased mental function. These factors can negatively impact productivity, increase the likelihood of errors, and even pose safety risks in hazardous work environments. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to prioritize heat stress prevention and mitigation strategies.
"The most effective approach to tackling heat stress resides in prevention. Getting ready for summer months involves assessing PPE options, implementing an effective electrolyte and water program among many other steps you can take. Companies that excel in these preparations begin well in advance of the heat's arrival" - Wendy Galland, Vice President of Sales"
Hydration is Key: Encourage team members to hydrate often during the day. Including electrolytes is a great way to replace lost nutrients while giving your team a great tasting option. Popsicles, tablets and electrolyte powders are all items that should be considered.
Protective Clothing: Check whether the personal protective equipment (PPE) suits hot work conditions. Go for lightweight, breathable materials to reduce heat retention. Think about using cooling vests or other special equipment to help lower the risk of heat stress.
Ventilation and Cooling Systems: Ensure workspaces have good ventilation and effective cooling systems. This could be air conditioning, fans, or natural ventilation. Canopies are crucial especially in outdoor environments. Regularly check these systems to keep them working properly.
Work Hours/Encourage Breaks: Consider flexible work hours to allow workers to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Adding additional breaks during the day can encourage hydration and allow for more frequent check-ins with your team.
Supervision and Support: Ask supervisors and managers to watch for signs of heat stress in their teams. Foster a supportive work culture that values employee health and encourages open conversations about heat-related issues.
Education and Training: Teach workers about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them. Train them to recognize early signs of heat stress and stress the need to report symptoms quickly to avoid complications.
Thompson Safety can help. We provide an extensive range of products, services, and training, including everything from water pallets and freeze pops to cooling towels and canopies. These resources can help you construct a heat management program tailored to your business's specific needs. We understand that dealing with heat can be challenging, but rest assured, our service professionals, backed by world-class products, stand ready to make a significant difference during those hot summer months.
Thompson Safety is a full-service fire and life safety company based in Houston, TX. The company services and supplies first aid cabinets, fire equipment, safety products, personal protective equipment, heart defibrillators, and eyewash stations, while also performing safety training and other safety services. The company is a solution-oriented partner to facilities managers and environmental health and safety professionals. To learn more, visit www.thompson-safety.com or follow Thompson Safety on LinkedIn. Looking to join the Thompson Safety team? Please visit: www.thompson-safety.com/company/careers