It’s hot out there and it’s only getting hotter. Are you and your employees safe in this heat?
Did you know that this year on April 8th OSHA implemented a new national emphasis program focused on heat?
National Emphasis Programs (NEPs) are temporary programs that focus OSHA’s resources on particular hazards and high-hazard industries. Existing and potential new emphasis programs are evaluated using inspection data, injury and illness data, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports, peer-reviewed literature, analysis of inspection findings, and other available information sources.
According to OSHA “most outdoor fatalities, 50% to 70%, occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. The process of building tolerance is called heat acclimatization. Lack of acclimatization represents a major risk factor for fatal outcomes.” (https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure)
The list of targeted industries is long and includes industries you probably thought of like construction, manufacturing, and farming. But also included on that list are bakeries, grocery, automobile dealers, nursing care facilities, and many more. The list contains well over 50 targeted industries. (Appendix A: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/enforcement/directives/CPL_03-00-024.pdf).
So what can you do? Here are OSHA’s recommendations from Appendix D of the National Emphasis Program – Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards.
General controls include training, personal protective equipment (PPE), engineering, work practice, and administrative controls, health screening, and heat alert programs
- Hazards of heat-related illnesses.
- How to avoid heat-related illnesses by recognizing and avoiding situations that can lead to heat-related illnesses.
- Recognition of signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
- First aid procedures.
- Employer’s program to address heat-related illnesses.
Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment:
- Hats for work outdoors in the sun.
- For indoor work, loosely worn reflective clothing designed to deflect radiant heat, such as vests, aprons, or jackets.
- Cooling vests and water-cooled/dampened garments may be effective under high temperature and low humidity conditions. However, be aware that cooling vests can become an insulator when they reach the body’s temperature.
- In environments where respirator usage is necessary, consult with an industrial hygienist to determine the appropriate clothing to prevent heat stress while still protecting the workers.
- Consider the use of dermal patches for monitoring core temperature to better identify when workers need to be removed from the work area.
- Consider the use of heart rate monitoring to better identify when workers need to be removed from the work area. Both sustained (180 bpm minus age) and recovery (120 bpm after a peak work effort) heart rates are recommended guidelines for limiting heat strain
Engineering Practice Controls:
- Use air conditioning
- Increase general ventilation
- Provide cooling fans
- Run local exhaust ventilation where heat is produced (e.g., laundry vents)
- Use reflective shields to block radiant heat
- Insulate hot surfaces (e.g., furnace walls)
- Stop leaking steam
- Provide shade for outdoor work sites.
Administrative and Work Practice Controls:
- Schedule hot jobs for cooler parts of the workday; schedule routine maintenance and repair work during cooler seasons of the year when possible.
- Provide adequate, cool drinking water on the worksite that is easily accessible and permit employees to take frequent rest and water breaks.
- Use relief workers and reduce physical demands of the job.
- Use work/rest schedules.
Health Screening and Acclimatization:
- Allow new workers to get used to hot working environments by using a staggered approach over 7-14 days. For example, new workers should begin work with 20% of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment, and then gradually increase the time over a 7–14-day period. The same should be done for workers returning from an absence of three or more days, starting with 50% of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment, then staging acclimatization over three consecutive days. Advise workers that certain medications can increase risk of heat stress. These include:
- Amphetamines – sometimes prescribed for narcolepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD),
- Diuretics – water pills,
- Antihypertensives – blood pressure medication,
- Anticholinergics – for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD),
- Antihistamines – allergy medications
- In addition, alert workers to the dangers of using illegal drugs and alcohol in hot work environments. Illegal amphetamines, such as methamphetamine, are particularly hazardous when heat stress is present.
- Some conditions, such as pregnancy, fever, gastrointestinal illness, heart disease, and obesity, may increase the risk of heat-related illness. Advise workers to check with their doctors if they have any questions. (Please note: the employer is NOT entitled to know whether workers have these conditions, but only whether workers have any health conditions that limit their ability to perform their job duties. In some instances, workers with chronic conditions may need extra time to become acclimatized or may need other accommodations, such as more frequent breaks or restricted work.)
- Encourage workers to consult a doctor or pharmacist if they have questions about whether they are at increased risk for heat-related illness because of health conditions they have and/or medications they take.
If you’d like assistance in developing your company’s heat stress program, give us a call at 864.297.4521 or Email Us. We’d be happy to help in any way we can. Life and Safety can help you develop your program, select the right PPE, deliver training, or any other element of your heat safety program.