Primary Hazard: Heat-Related Illness
Every year 384 people die from heat-related illnesses. Although not all cases are serious, heat- related illness can quickly go from a relatively minor problem to a life-threatening one. When a person gets too hot or is in the heat too long with a hydration deficit, the body loses the required water and salts needed to regulate its temperature. Once the body's natural cooling methods begin to fail and body temperature rises, a person's likelihood of going into heatstroke increases exponentially. Heatstroke is a medical emergency, and emergency medical attention is required. When a person suffers heatstroke, they have a racing pulse, a high body temperature, and a loss of consciousness. As previously mentioned, far too often, heatstroke ends in death. Following are Critical Observable Actions we look for when observing crews to prevent heat- related illness.
Critical Observable Actions:
Crews are wearing the appropriate clothing. We encourage crews to wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing when possible.
Ample water is available. We always look to ensure crews have an ample supply of water on hand to get them through the entire workday. OSHA requires one quart per hour per employee for the entire shift.
Everyone onsite is staying hydrated. Anyone working outside must drink water before, during, and after a shift. We like to see workers drink 5-7 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes.
Crews are limiting their consumption of energy drinks, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages. Avoid coffee, tea, and soda which act as a diuretic, and obviously, never drink alcohol during work.
There is ample shade and cool-down areas. When we observe crews, we like to see crews take regular cool-down breaks to help regulate body temperature. Shade should always be available but must be available when the temperature is expected to exceed 80 degrees.
A designated monitor is assigned. When crews are focused on the task at hand, it is easy to forget to hydrate and take breaks. We feel it is wise for crews to designate a responsible person to monitor conditions and protect workers at risk of heat-related illness.
The crew has a high heat procedure in place. The crew must have a high heat procedure when temperatures are expected to reach or exceed 95 degrees. The entire team must be extra vigilant for signs of heat stress.
The crew has an Emergency Action Plan that includes responding to heat illness. The plan should include communications, emergency care, evacuation, etc. We look for the plan to be clearly documented, easily implemented, and understood by all.
Heat-related illness escalates quickly. Any employee working in elevated temperatures is at risk. Be sure your crew stays hydrated and cool.
Thank you for working safely.