Working in the summer often means dealing with higher temperatures, especially in fields such as construction, manufacturing, shipping, and similar industries. And while many jobs require a willingness to work through uncomfortable conditions, ensuring your workers are safe and healthy in the summer should be a priority.
Heat exhaustion can be dangerous - and in severe cases, deadly - so it's essential to take steps to prevent it in your workplace. This includes proper education and the right MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations) products. Let’s dig into the specifics of heat exhaustion, what it looks like, and how to prevent it from happening.
What Is Heat Exhaustion?
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body overheats and cannot cool itself down adequately. This can lead to serious health issues, such as dehydration, heat stroke, and even death.
With more and more workers exposed to high temperatures, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has created standards and guidelines to help protect workers from heat-related illnesses and injuries.
These include hydration and rest requirements, as well as providing employers with the right MRO products to help keep workers safe:
Provide Proper Hydration and Rest
Employers must provide adequate water, rest, and shade for workers exposed to high temperatures. Water should be provided regularly throughout the day, and employees should be encouraged to drink it frequently.
Rest breaks should also be taken in shaded areas as often as possible to allow employees to cool down and prevent heat-related illnesses. This can help to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other types of heat-related illnesses.
Educate and Acclimatize Workers
Another critical step in preventing heat-related illnesses and injuries is to educate workers about the signs and symptoms of heat illness. Employees should be made aware of the risks associated with working in hot environments and how to recognize early warning signs of heat illness.
Employers should also provide acclimatization periods for new or seasoned employees who have not recently been exposed to high temperatures.
During this period, employers can gradually increase the intensity and duration of physical activity to help employees become more accustomed to hot conditions.
Monitor Weather & Schedule Appropriately
Employers must also monitor weather reports and take appropriate action when extreme heat is expected. They should adjust work schedules accordingly and provide additional breaks if necessary.
Companies should have an emergency plan in place if a worker suffers from heat exhaustion or another heat-related illness. A comprehensive Heat Stress Prevention Program will include emergency protocols for responding to medical emergencies and guidelines for monitoring employees’ health.
Hydration: The Key to Heat Stress Prevention
Staying hydrated is the single most important factor in preventing heat-related illnesses. As temperatures rise, the human body needs more fluids to replace those lost through perspiration and other forms of evaporative cooling. When a lack of hydration occurs, the body becomes inefficient at cooling itself and can quickly become overheated.
The signs of dehydration and overheating can be difficult to distinguish, but there are several key indicators that can help employers recognize the symptoms early. The most common signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion include:
- Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or faint
- Weakness or fatigue
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle cramps
Employees should be encouraged to drink plenty of water throughout the day, regardless of how hot it is. Additionally, employers should provide access to shade or other cooling areas for employees to rest when needed and ensure adequate ventilation in work areas.
Investing in MRO Supplies for Heat Exhaustion Prevention
It's necessary for companies to invest in MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Operations) supplies to help keep workers safe from heat exhaustion. Here are some of the essential items companies should consider investing in:
- Air circulators: These devices help move air around the workplace, providing workers with a cool breeze and increasing airflow. While air conditioners provide more relief from the heat, they can be expensive and energy-intensive. Air circulators are a great cost-effective alternative that still helps keep workers cool in hot conditions.
- Heat alarms: Heat alarms can alert supervisors or workers when temperatures reach unsafe levels. They can also help employers track the temperature of their workplace over time, allowing them to make necessary changes to maintain a safe and comfortable environment.
- Lightweight clothing: Providing workers with light, breathable clothing can help keep them cooler in hot weather conditions. Clothing made from moisture-wicking fabrics is especially helpful as it helps draw sweat away from the body, keeping workers feeling dry and cool.
- Ice packs: In extreme heat conditions, employers can provide workers with ice packs or cooling towels to help keep them cool.
- Fans: Consider investing in floor or wall-mounted fans to provide additional cooling power and keep air circulating - especially in buildings where heat can quickly build.
- Blowers: Fans can be supplemented with blowers to forcefully and effectively push air through an area or remove stale heat. When used throughout the building, blowers can provide a powerful cooling effect.
- Radiant shielding: Reflection shields can be placed along walls and on windows to deflect sunlight away from the building and prevent heat buildup within.
- Evaporative coolers: These nifty appliances cool the air by evaporating water, creating a cooling effect that can help employees stay comfortable in a hot space.
Don’t Risk Heat-Related Dangers
Heat exhaustion is a serious concern for many workers during the warmer months, but the risk can be reduced with proper prevention and preparedness.
Companies can help to safeguard their employees by investing in essential MRO supplies to keep the workplace cool and by putting proper safety protocols in place.
Alta Max is ready to help you provide the right tools and supplies to mitigate the risks of heat exhaustion. Don't let the heat compromise your employees' health and safety – please reach out to Alta Max for your Heat Exhaustion Prevention items today.