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Guide To Heat Illness Prevention While On The Job

By: John Heniff, Content Copywriter, Magid

​High temperatures on the job can make people miserable. And whether it’s from hot weather outdoors or high-heat applications indoors, discomfort can quickly escalate from an annoyance to a life-threatening situation. In fact, every day in the United States, 11 workers are seriously injured or die from heat stress, resulting in incidents that cost an average of $53,000. Here are a few tips to make your workers aware of the causes of heat-related illnesses and some solutions to help everyone keep their cool.

Know the Causes of Heat Illness
Overheating can be caused by several factors – alone or in combination.

Hot and Humid Environments 
The most obvious cause of overheating is working in a hot environment. That might mean construction workers in the summer months, welders in the forge any time of year, or even workers whose job brings them close to hot machinery. Always be aware of the heat factor when you consider the day’s working conditions.

Heavy Exertional Activities
Over the course of a work shift, repetitive motions, carrying heavy equipment, and rough industrial tasks increase core body temperature, deplete energy, and increase the need for fluids.

Medication and Alcohol
Certain medications and even recent alcohol consumption can make workers more susceptible to heat illness. Common medicines for blood pressure, depression, and even colds and allergies can make them less able to regulate their body temperature and hydration levels.

While you might not specifically ask people if they’re taking medication or if they had a drink with last night’s dinner, you can give them a general heads-up to be aware of their own risk factors.

For many of the reasons we’ve mentioned here, workers often arrive for the day already dehydrated. Hot working conditions only contribute to this problem and rob workers of the fluids they need. It’s important to note that, while this is a key factor in keeping workers safe, hydration alone does NOT prevent heat illness.

Underlying Health Conditions
If your workers have previously experienced a heat illness or live with a chronic health condition like diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure, these kinds of conditions can negatively impact the way their body cools itself down. Even if you can’t ask them directly about their medical history, it’s a good idea to issue a general reminder before your team starts working in the heat.

Provide Quality Body-Cooling PPE
Remind workers whose jobs require sleeves, jackets, coveralls, or any other PPE that tends to trap heat against the body to keep a particular eye on their hydration and any signs of heat illness. You can also provide your workers lighter-weight PPE solutions that will offer them protection while reducing the potential for heat stress. Consider using the cooling PPE mentioned in the Provide Quality Body-Cooling PPE section below.

How to Prevent Heat IllnessEducate Your Workers
Make sure your workers understand the ins-and-outs of heat illness by using posters or safety trainings that include risk factors, the differences between various types of heat illness, which symptoms are more serious than others, the importance of hydration and body cooling, and what to do in an emergency.​

  • Training ClassesThe summer months are an ideal time to remind workers of the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, the importance of hydration, and what to do in an emergency.
  • Reminder Posters: Post reminders to help workers keep heat safety in mind and as a handy reference listing the symptoms of heat illness and what to do in case of emergency.

Gauge the Day’s Weather
Your favorite meteorologist can’t always predict the heat and humidity on your jobsite. The best way to determine the temperature your people are working in is to use a wet bulb globe temperature monitor to gauge the site’s microclimates – the real temperature based on heat, humidity, airflow, and other factors.

Switch Up the Work-to-Rest Ratio
Once you know the correct temperature, you can adjust the amount of breaks your workers take and how long they should rest and rehydrate. Hotter temperatures require more frequent breaks and better hydration!

Acclimate Workers to the Heat
According to OSHA, almost half of heat-related deaths occur on a worker’s first day on the job, and over 70 percent occur within the first week. Prepare your workers for warmer temperatures through acclimatization — the process of letting the body adapt to heat stress. Workers who are well acclimated to hot environments develop physiological defenses such as a lower heart rate and an increased sweat rate while working in the heat.

Emphasize Proper Hydration
Remind your workers that one sip of water isn’t going to cut it! Encourage them to drink water the night before, during their shift, and after work to stay hydrated throughout the day. Most importantly, make sure the water they drink during breaks is kept cold and that it’s near enough to their work area to give them constant access.

Provide Quality Body-Cooling PPE
​Keep your workers cooler on the job with products developed specifically to beat the heat. Magid® Cool Powered by Mission® emphasizes body cooling that’s instant, portable, and lasts for hours through a combination of water and air cooling. Other product designs like the T-Rex® Windstorm Series® provide mesh constructions and different types of venting to allow better airflow and moisture-wicking materials to encourage moisture evaporation. Above all, be sure you’re supplying the coolest, most comfortable protection possible while keeping your workers safe.

This article was originally published on the Magid Glove & Safety Manufacturing Company LLC website.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.