OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
With the coming of summer and the accompanying potential for high temperatures and humidity, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) wants to make sure New England employers and their workers have the information they need to cope with extreme heat now and throughout the warm-weather season.
"Workers become more vulnerable to heat-related illnesses during extremely hot weather and those who don't take precautions could suffer rashes, cramps, fainting, heat exhaustion or heat stroke," said Ruth McCully, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "In the most severe cases, excessive heat can be more than uncomfortable, it can be life-threatening. However, if workers and employers follow a few simple guidelines, heat hazards can be minimized."
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. And it is important to know that a person need not be in the sun for heat stress to occur.
OSHA's Ten Suggestions to Employers for Helping Workers Stay 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, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks 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 their clothing if it 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 heat-related illnesses.
Learn to spot the signs of heat stroke, which can be fatal. The symptoms are severe headache, mental confusion/loss of consciousness, flushed face, 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.
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.
Sources of Information
In addition, two free OSHA publications on heat hazards that are of particular interest to workers and employers are:
"Protecting Workers in Hot Environments,", a concise fact sheet [OSHA 95-16] which lists environmental and personal factors which affect the body's ability to cool itself, details symptoms of five heat disorders and suggests first-aid measures for each, and lists preventive steps employers and workers can take to curb heat-related illnesses.
Much of the same information is contained on a compact laminated "Heat Stress Card", available in English [OSHA 3154] and Spanish [OSHA 3155], which can fit into a worker's pocket.
Both publications are available free of charge via OSHA's Internet website at http://www.osha.gov, or by contacting one of the following OSHA offices in New England:
Hartford (860) 240-3152
Bridgeport (203) 579-5581
Braintree (617) 565-6924
Methuen (617) 565-8110
Springfield (413) 785-0123
Concord (603) 225-1629
Providence (401) 528-4669
Bangor (207) 941-8177
Portland (207) 780-3178
More detailed information regarding the recognition, evaluation, control of, and compliance actions involving, heat stress is available through OSHA's technical links website. Just go to the OSHA homepage at http://www.osha.gov, click on the Subject Index and then click on the link for "Heat Stress." The Heat Stress Card noted above is available under the "Publications" link.
[Note to editors: If you wish to have a copy of the heat stress fact sheet faxed to you, please call (617) 565-2072].
The information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (617) 565-2072. TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) Message Referral Phone: 800-347-8029.
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