- Claims & Risk Management
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The month of June is National Safety Month and the hot summer days are upon us. In order to protect our workers this season, we need to take proper precautions. Regulating body temperature and staying hydrated are vital, especially during strenuous physical labor. Exposure to the heat can cause heat cramps and rashes. Heat cramps appear as severe muscle spasms in the back, stomach, arms and legs, which are attributed to the loss of body salt and water during periods of heavy perspiration. The most serious heat-related disorders are heat exhaustion and heat stroke which may cause loss of consciousness, irrational behavior, confusion, dry skin, and abnormally high body temperature. Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. Any employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete Heat Illness Prevention Program.
Heat Illness Prevention Programs are an effective tool for reducing occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Identify a person designated to oversee the program who is trained in the hazards, physiological responses to heat, and controls. This individual can develop, implement and manage the program. Employers need to ensure that cool drinking water is accessible to their workers and encourage them to avoid drinks such as caffeine and soda, as they can dehydrate the body. The employer should provide access to shaded or air-conditioned areas for resting and cooling down. Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
All employees should be trained and educated on the effects of heat, the symptoms of heat illness, how and when to respond to symptoms, and how to prevent heat illness. Establish a method to monitor and report the signs and symptoms to improve early detection and action. Have an emergency plan in place and communicate to supervisors and workers. The emergency plan should include: how to contact emergency help, what to do when someone is showing signs of heat illness, and appropriate first-aid measure until emergency help arrives. It is essential to treat heat illness as soon as possible. If you suspect that a fellow worker has a heat condition, follow these first-aid tips:
- Heat Cramps – Move the victim to a cooler area and allow them to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
- Heat Exhaustion – Move the victim to a cooler area and keep them lying down with their legs slightly elevated. Cool their body by fanning and applying cool, wet towels. If conscious, allow the victim to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
- Heat Stroke – You or a bystander should immediately call an ambulance. Meanwhile, move the victim to a cooler area, remove their outer clothing, immerse them in cool water or apply cool, wet towels or cloths to the body. Do NOT give them liquids. If medical help is delayed, call the hospital for further instructions while waiting. Heat stroke is life-threatening, so it’s important to move quickly!
Be aware of weather conditions when you will be working outside by downloading OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool Smartphone App (for iPhone/iPad and Android). The App has real-time heat index and hourly forecasts specific to your location, as well as occupational safety and health recommendations from OSHA and NIOSH.
For more information, contact The Safegard Group.