More on Summer Safety
I used this space last month to encourage you all to help prevent skin cancer by protecting yourselves from the sun. However, there are other summer weather hazards that sunscreen and wide-brimmed hats alone cannot prevent: heat-related illnesses. Although, for most of you, working in the hot summer weather is unavoidable, there are steps you can take to stay cool and keep you and your crew safe.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a national outreach initiative to educate workers on the hazards of working outdoors. Every year thousands of people suffer from serious heat-related illness on the job. Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that can be cooled by sweating. What might begin as mild cramps can advance to heat exhaustion and quickly escalate to heat stroke, which has killed an average of 30 workers annually since 2003. OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness (www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html) focuses on three words: water, rest and shade. These simple steps can go a long way toward preventing a tragedy.
In hot weather, encourage your crew to drink plenty of water, take as many breaks as necessary and limit time in the sun as much as possible. To become acclimated to the heat, gradually build up to heavy work. Take steps to help workers become acclimated, especially workers who are new to working outdoors inthe heat or have been away from work for a week or more.
If anyone shows symptoms of a heat-related illness (see below), call for medical assistance immediately, get the victim to a shady area and cool them down as quickly as possible (spray from a cool hose, a cold shower, etc.). Monitor body temperature and continue efforts to cool them down until their temperature drops to 101-102 degrees.
OSHA has also introduced the Heat Safety Tool, a smartphone app that allows users to calculate the heat index for their work site and, based on the heat index, provides a risk level to outdoor workers. The app also suggests protective measures that should be taken at the particular risk level.