How to Avoid Safety Risks While Working in Hot Weather
Tips & Tricks
By Alexandra Serban
July 02, 2020
Hot, lazy days of summer are here. For those of us working in AC-cooled offices, summer is a breeze. However, heat can prove harmful and even life-threatening for people working long hours in direct sunlight or hot environments.
And there's more than a handful. An average of 13.3 million people reported working in extreme heat each day in July 2017, according to this research.
Therefore, there is a significant risk of worker fatality posed by a combination of heat, excessive humidity and intense physical labor.
Heat hazards such as heat-induced illnesses, heat stress, heat exhaustion and heat strokes are quite common in construction work, oil and gas operations, emergency response operations and firefighting, for instance. Indoor workplaces such as iron and steel foundries, electrical utilities, chemical plants are also subject to occupational heat exposure.
What is occupational heat stress?
Besides hot weather and strenuous activity, heat stress is also caused by overdressing. By the nature of their work, firefighters are constantly exposed to this hazard. Firefighter turnout gear is normally heavy and thick to provide thermal protection, physical strength and hazard resistance. Thus, heat and sweat remain trapped underneath gear, rising body temperature and thus, the risk of heat stress.
Firefighter PPE should be light and breathable to allow air circulation and body heat to be easily released. To achieve this, Honeywell has a developed a patent-pending vent feature for firefighter PPE , while also providing cancer particulate protection.
What is a heat stroke?
It’s the most serious form of heat-related illness and it manifests itself thought confusion, impaired speech, fainting, excessing sweating, loss of consciousness, or seizures.
There are two types of heat stroke:
1. Exertional – brought by intense physical activity in hot weather
2. Non-exertional – when people are simply in a hot environment
Due to its severe consequences, it requires immediate medical attention. Immediate treatment involves cooling the victim’s body, using cold water or ice. Any delay in seeking medical help can prove to be fatal.
Preventing heat illnesses
Employers should implement engineering and work practice controls to reduce heat stress. In indoor work environments, this means increasing air speed and ventilation, or reducing humidity. For outdoor work, shaded places, hydration stations and seating should be in place.
Frequent rest breaks are also beneficial, for workers to cool down and hydrate any time they feel heat discomfort. Work periods should also be shorter than usual, as temperature, humidity and sunshine increase.
Supervisors need to be trained to implement appropriate acclimatization, learn proper emergency response procedures and monitor worker fluid intake and rest breaks. Acclimatization means the worker should gradually become accustomed to the environment.
When it comes to preventing emergency situations, a buddy system can help workers keep an eye on each other by observing and reporting any signs of heat intolerance.
Looking for more information on heat safety tools? Check out our Beat the Heat initative.
To sum up, remember, this is how you can prevent heat illnesses this summer:
1. Stay hydrated.
2. Wear light-colored, lightweight, and loose-fitting clothing to avoid overheating.
3. Schedule frequent breaks.
4. Use sunscreen if outdoors.
5. Be aware of heat-related illness signs and ask for help.
6. Limit exposure to UV rays, if possible.
7. Pace the work.
If you need guidance on summer-appropriate PPE, we recommend contacting a Honeywell sales rep or local distributor.