Heat is a condition that affects all worksites, whether indoors or out. In Florida, the heat, combined with high humidity, brings its own special issues. When you combine high temperatures and high humidity with strenuous physical activity, you are upping the ante for a heat-related illness to occur. Every year, thousands of workers become sick or die due to heat stress.
Labor-intense activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may start as heat rash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat exhaustion and then heat stroke if simple preventative measures are not followed.
Heat related illnesses aren’t just a problem for outdoor workers. In addition to the weather, heat can be generated by machinery and increase the average temperature of the surrounding area. The usage of personal protective equipment (PPE), while helpful and often necessary, can be an additional source of warmth.
A hot indoor environment, aided by the outdoor climate (whether that means that doors have to be left open or that your building isn’t well insulated) can slow down reaction times and create an unsafe workplace.
Develop a heat-related injury and illness safety program:
Training is crucial to ensure managers and employees understand the true impact of heat. Follow the simple guidelines to ensure your workers aren’t at risk this summer:
Educate Employees — have a Heat Illness Safety Talk (link to Heat Illness Safety Talk) — so workers can recognize symptoms, know about proper clothing and how to tell if they’re hydrated.
Provide fresh water — have water on hand close to the work area and remind workers to frequently drink small amounts of water every 20 – 30 minutes.
Rest/Shade — new workers should gradually increase their workload or take more frequent breaks the first week. Schedule frequent rest periods with water breaks in shade or areas with air condition.
Monitor — keep an eye on your workers to be sure they aren’t showing signs of heat illness. Have them pair up to work if possible. Most of the time, a worker may not realize what is happening to them until heat sickness strikes.
Heat Safety Tools:
To help plan for outdoor work activities, OSHA and the National Institute for Occupation Safety and Health (NIOSH) have developed the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool.
This mobile app, available in English and Spanish on both IPhone and Android, allows workers and supervisors to calculate the heat index for their worksite, and, based on the heat index, displays a risk level to workers. Then, with a simple "click," you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to protect workers from heat-related illness.
Additionally, OSHA has training posters to prevent heat illness in outdoor workers available in English and Spanish