Getting the Job Done While Dealing with the Heat

It doesn’t matter that it’s verging on 100° F with 70% Humidity, the job needs to get done. So, how can you get the job done while protecting your employees from heat-induced illnesses, disorders and accidents?

First, it’s important to understand that a body’s response to heat exposure is different for each person. Many physical and environmental factors come into play when determining the heat tolerance of individuals. Some of these factors are within your control and others are not.

Physical factors such as age, body fat, physical fitness, medications and medical conditions affect the level of heat stress an employee can handle. Other factors that affect heat tolerance are environmental conditions, such as air temperature, humidity, radiant heat, conductive heat, clothing, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

While it’s true that most of these factors are beyond your control, a proactive approach in keeping a close eye on employees that are working in extreme heat can be a critical factor. If an employee appears to be struggling or showing signs of distress, have the person stop working, take off PPE, relocate into the shad or air conditioning, and drink plenty of water. If the person does not recover or symptoms worsen, seek medical attention.

As employees perform job tasks their bodies produce heat, and the amount of heat produced is much higher when performing hard steady work rather than intermittent or light work. By alternating hard steady work with lighter work and/or alternating working in high heat with working in moderate to cool temperatures, a core body temperature of 98.6° F can be maintained, which is critical for the body to function properly.

Other alternatives to stay cool include:
• Air transfer spot cooling of an individual employee
• Barriers and radiant reflective shielding between the heat source and employee
• Body cooling garments and heat protective clothing
• Schedule work in cooler times of the day or cooler months
• Acclimatize workers by exposing them for progressively longer periods of time
• Use relief workers or assign extra workers for physically demanding jobs
• Provide cool water or liquids, and avoid caffeine and sugary drinks
• Provide rest periods in cool areas with water breaks

When trying to eliminate the risk of heat-induced illnesses, disorders and accidents, there’s not one approach that works for every situation. In fact, a combination of engineering controls, work practices, and safety procedures are usually necessary. That’s why Total Environmental and Safety evaluates all aspects of the employees performing the work and the environmental conditions before developing an approach that will keep your employees healthy and on the job.