Tuesday, June 30, 1998
Contact: Jeff Ezell (202) 219-8151
Department of Labor Helps Workers Cope
with Summer Weather, OSHA Offers Cool Tips to Beat
The U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) wants to make sure workers have the
information they need to cope with the heat wave affecting many
parts of the country. With rising temperatures during the summer
months, workers become more vulnerable to heat-related injuries
and illnesses. Those who don't take precautions could suffer rashes,
cramps or heat stroke.
"The heat can be more than uncomfortable, it can be life-threatening,"
said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "Approximately 500
people die from heat-related illnesses every year. If workers and
employers follow a few simple guidelines, we can prevent the kinds
of problems that can turn a heat wave into a tragedy."
OSHA suggests the following tips for employers and workers to
prevent heat-related disorders -- many of which are easily
avoided. Simply drinking plenty of water and wearing light,
loose-fitting clothing, for example, significantly reduce the risk.
"Heat disorders affect thousands of American workers each
year," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress. "Using these
tips along with a little common sense can help workers curb the risk
of injury, illness or even death."
OSHA's Top Ten Tips for Staying Cool in Hot Workplaces:
Encourage workers to drink plenty of water (without salt)--about
one cup of cool water every 15-20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty.
Avoid alcohol, coffee and tea, which contribute to dehydration.
Help workers adjust to the heat by assigning a lighter workload
and longer rest periods for the first five to seven days of intense heat.
And this process needs to start all over again when a worker returns
from vacation or absence due to illness or injury.
Encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored
clothing. Workers should change if their clothing gets completely saturated.
Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat
production. Good air flow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin.
Stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality can induce
Train first-aid workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress.
Be sure that all workers know who is trained to render first aid. Supervisors
also should be able to detect early signs of heat-related illness and permit
workers to interrupt their work if they become extremely uncomfortable.
Consider a worker's physical condition when determining fitness to
work in hot environments. Obesity, lack of conditioning, pregnancy and
inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.
Alternate work and rest periods, with longer rest periods in a
cooler area. Shorter, but frequent, work-rest cycles are best. Schedule
heavy work for cooler parts of the day and use appropriate protective clothing.
Certain medical conditions, such as heart conditions, or treatments
like low-sodium diets and some medications, increase the risk from heat
exposure. Seek medical advice in those cases.
Monitor temperatures, humidity and workers' responses to
heat at least hourly.
Learn to spot the signs of heat stroke, which can be fatal. The
symptoms are mental confusion/loss of consciousness, body temperature
of 106 degrees, and hot, dry skin. If someone has stopped sweating,
seek medical attention immediately. Other heat-induced illnesses include
heat exhaustion, heat cramps, skin rashes, swelling and loss of mental
and physical work capacity.
A fact sheet, "Protecting Workers in Hot Environments," is available
via the Internet at http://www.osha.gov. It can be found on the
Publication page under Fact Sheets. Single copies of all fact sheets
are available by calling OSHA Publications, telephone (202) 219-4667.