Since the temperatures in the near future will be in the triple digits, this Special Edition of the EHS Listserv is being sent as a tool to help avoid heat-related illness.
1. Heat Stress & Heat-Related Illness
Resulting in numerous fatalities each year, heat exhaustion and dehydration due to heat are some of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. Nationally, heat kills more people annually than all other weather conditions combined. While this article primarily references outdoor conditions, the principles and practices presented also apply to indoor work in hot environments.
From the resources provided at the end of this article, of particular benefit is OSHA Heat Index app free for either Android or iPhone (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html) . There is an explanation of using the Heat Index available at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/using_heat_protect_workers.html. NOTE: Heat Index is calculated based on a temperature in the shade. Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees.
We often associate heat-related illness with outdoor operations such as farm work, landscaping, and research “in the field.” However, EHS routinely reviews injury reports from employees working INSIDE an unconditioned building (e.g., warehouse, storeroom) or areas of a building prone to heat build-up (e.g., kitchens, laundry, autoclave rooms, etc.).
Working in the heat stresses the body and can lead to illness or even death in severe cases. Exposure to heat can also increase the risk of other injuries because of sweaty hands, fogged-up safety glasses, dizziness, and burns from hot surfaces. Most heat-related health problems can be prevented or the risk of developing them can be reduced.
Following are two main categories of risk factors the worker should evaluate when contemplating outdoor work:
· Weather Conditions. The risk of heat stress is relative to temperature, humidity, sunlight, and wind speed. High temperature, high humidity, direct sunlight and low wind speed make the worst combination. If possible, schedule strenuous work for the cooler parts of the day.
· Personal Factors and Physical Demands. The risk of heat stress increases with physical demands. For example, a worker who is walking is at higher risk than a worker who is riding in a vehicle. Older workers, obese workers, and persons taking certain types of medication, such as antihistamines, are at a greater risk for heat illness.
It may not always be possible to work only in cooler parts of the day. The risk of heat-related illness can be reduced by:
· Acclimation. Build up tolerance to heat by short exposures before undertaking longer periods of work in a hot environment.
· Appropriate clothing. Light, loose clothing and a hat are the clothing of choice.
· Hydration. Drink 8-16 ounces of water before working in the heat. Drink 4-8 ounces of water or electrolytes every 15-20 minutes while working in the heat. AVOID alcohol, coffee, tea, or soda pop, which further dehydrate the body.
· Adequate Rest Periods. Work at a steady pace. Take breaks when your body signals you need one, preferably in shaded or cool areas.
· Education. Heat stress can manifest as a number of conditions, all to be taken seriously, and some requiring medical assistance to avoid permanent aftereffects. Workers should know the signs and symptoms of these conditions so they can take proper action if they or their co-workers are affected.
More in-depth information can be found within the EHS Safe Operating Procedure (SOP), Heat Stress.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed a free smartphone Heat Safety Tool that calculates a heat index, identifies the associated risk level and provides reminders about protective measures that should be taken to protect workers from heat-related illness. The app is available for either Android or iPhone.
Further recommendations from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for those working in hot environments include:
While we think of summer as the “hot” time of year, sometimes temperatures in the spring can reach dangerous levels as well. Remember to practice heat safety wherever you are and in whatever you are doing. Heat-related illness and death are preventable.
Ø OSHA Health and Safety Topics: Occupational Heat Exposure https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/
Ø OSHA Heat Safety Tool (phone app-English & Spanish) https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html
Ø OSHA Health and Safety Topics: Using the Heat Index https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/index.html
Ø EHS Heat Stress SOP https://ehs.unl.edu/sop/s-heatstress.pdf
Ø National Institute for Health & Safety (NIOSH) Safety & Health Topics: Heat Stress https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/
Ø Heat Safety Tips and Resources https://www.weather.gov/safety/heat
Ø Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Extreme Heat” https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html
2. Heat-Related Illness Mitigation (Poster)
EHS has developed a number of safety posters of relevance to the campus community. The tips in this new poster are relevant whether working indoors or out, at work or at home.
Ø Safety Posters http://ehs.unl.edu/safety-posters
3. Safety Shorts – Heat Stress
This series features links to short safety resource(s) each month. Provided this month are resources related to heat stress:
· Mayo Clinic Minute: The dangers of heat-related illnesses (Mayo Clinic 1:00 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtmTbJr_Oxs
· Heat Awareness (SafeWorkSA, 1:21 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raLMyR8jJbA
· 7 Ways to Beat the Heat – Hot Weather Hazards – Preventing Illness and Deaths in Hot Environments (Safety Memos, 3:28 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYnj1G94e6Y&t=102s
· Extreme Heat (Raul Flores, 1:32 min.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLlaGIiTEAI
NOTE: Resources are provided for informational purposes only. Publication does not in any way endorse a particular company or product or affect current UNL policies and procedures.
Environmental Health and Safety
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
3630 East Campus Loop
Lincoln, NE 68583-0824