The administration is committed to protecting the health and safety of cleanup workers. One of the most serious health hazards facing those involved in the Gulf Oil Spill Response is heat. There have been over 739 incidents of illnesses from heat among workers involved in the clean up, some very serious.
From the outset, OSHA has ensured that BP implement a robust program to protect workers from heat stress and heat stroke, a potentially life threatening hazard for people working in the clean up - many of them working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, wearing chemical resistant tyvek coveralls, boots and gloves, in the hot and humid weather along the Gulf.
BP has now implemented a heat stress plan at all work sites, that includes a matrix that sets out specific work/rest requirements based on the heat and relative humidity, and whether workers are wearing protective clothing and equipment-which can exacerbate the hazard.
In addition to the work/rest requirements, BP has implemented other protective measures:
Workers are trained in the hazards of heat and the precautions necessary to prevent heat stress
Work begins early in the day to take advantage of cooler temperatures.
The plan requires that shaded rest areas be provided at all work areas.
Workers are required to drink liquids and take rest breaks throughout their work shift.
Heat stress monitors are on site at all times to ensure the work/rest regimen is adhered to, that workers are drinking enough to stay fully hydrated and that any workers exhibiting symptoms of heat related illness are immediately given fluids, rest and other appropriate care.
Every day, over 20 professionals from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are on the ground throughout the gulf states, monitoring all staging and clean up areas, to make sure workers are protected.
What is Heat Stress: When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heat-induced illnesses such as heat stress or heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke can occur, and can result in death.
Factors leading to Heat Stress: High temperature and humidity; direct sun or heat; limited air movement; physical exertion; poor physical condition; some medicines; and inadequate tolerance for hot workplaces.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion: Headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting; Weakness and moist skin; Mood changes such as irritability or confusion; Upset stomach or vomiting.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke: Dry, hot skin with no sweating; Mental confusion or losing consciousness; Seizures or convulsions.
Preventing Heat Stress: Know signs/symptoms of heat-related illnesses; monitor yourself and coworkers; Block out direct sun or other heat sources; Use cooling fans/air-conditioning; rest regularly; Drink lots of water; about 1 cup every 15 minutes; Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes; Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or heavy meals.
What to Do for Heat-Related Illness: Call 911 (or local emergency number) at once.
While waiting for help to arrive: Move the worker to a cool, shaded area; Loosen or remove heavy clothing; Provide cool drinking water; Fan and mist the person with water.
Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. The amount of damage from UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure, and whether the skin is protected.
There are no safe UV rays or safe suntans.
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