Originally posted on http://safetydailyadvisor.blr.com
Every June, the National Safety Council (NSC) celebrates National Safety “to educate and influence behaviors around leading causes of preventable injuries and deaths.” So, for the rest of this month, the Friday Safety Daily Advisor will participate by giving you training information and resources on each weekly theme.
NSM’s overall theme this year is “Safety Starts with Me,” which is the principle that everyone in the workplace is responsible for safety, not just management or safety professionals. So it’s important to train your employees on how to stay safe.
To that end, today’s Advisor gives you information you can use next week to train workers on wellness in conjunction with an National Safety Month Bonus topic: Summer Safety.
The end of June is a perfect time to give an annual refresher course on working in hot conditions.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), discomfort is an obvious result of working in hot temperatures, but it’s not the real problem. Workers, especially those who are suddenly exposed to hot environments, face a variety of serious hazards, most of them avoidable.
The issue is regulation of body heat. In order to maintain a fairly constant internal temperature, the body finds ways to get rid of excess heat. This is done primarily by varying the rate and amount of blood circulation through the skin and by the release of fluid onto the skin by the sweat glands. The process of lowering body temperature requires the heart to pump more blood, and blood circulates closer to the surface of the skin so the extra heat is lost to the environment.
If heat loss from increased blood circulation is not adequate, the sweat glands kick in and shed sweat onto the surface of the skin. Evaporation of the sweat cools the skin. But when humidity is high, evaporation decreases. More blood goes to the external surface of the body, with less going to muscles, brain, and other organs. This can cause a drop in strength, an increase in fatigue, and possibly, a change in mental condition.
Hot environments give rise to diverse safety problems. Expect an increased risk of accidents due to slippery, sweaty palms; dizziness; foggy safety glasses; and a heat-related decline in alertness. When people are overheated, they also become more irritable and angry and may be more likely to take shortcuts.
Beat the Heat
The combination of heat and humidity can pose a huge health risk during the summer months. Make sure your employees take these precautions:
- Drink plenty of water, even before feeling thirsty. Without sufficient fluids, you can pretty much count on problems to arise in warm weather. Cal/OSHA recommends that employees drink four 8-ounce glasses of water or about a quart per hour, throughout their work shift. A key to preventing heat illness is to frequently drink small quantities.
- Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
- Take frequent short breaks in cool shade.
- Eat smaller meals before work activity.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
- Check with an occupational health nurse or a physician to see if there are any risks associated with specific medications.
For more information on National Safety Month, visit NSC’s website.
Why It Matters
- Various health conditions are a direct result of rising temperatures, and they all interfere with worker performance.
- These conditions range from mild heat cramps to dangerous heat stroke which, if not treated immediately, can lead to death.
- These conditions can also increase the risk for other accidents as overheated workers lose focus, get irritable, and make rash decisions.
- Prevent health problems from the heat by training your workers on how to make adjustments to their work process so they can cope with hot conditions.