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I just finished sending an email to our property manager to let them know the HVAC unit supplying air to my side of our office building is on the fritz. Typing with sweaty palms. Ugh. Tangible reminder today that summer is officially here (well, the summer solstice isn’t until June 21st but it sure feels like it outside). Complaining about sweaty palms… how very “first world” of me, right? Kind of laughable when you consider the working conditions facing much of the global workforce today. Workers all across the United States are at risk of heat stress – outdoor workers and workers in hot environments such as firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, factory workers and others. Workers at greater risk of heat stress include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat. Staying cool is serious business over the next few months.
Any workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress.
Being a soccer fanatic, I’ve been reminded in the news lately of how very real the dangers of heat stress can be. When soccer’s governing body, FIFA, awarded the 2022 World Cup to host nation Qatar in December of 2010, someone overlooked the fact that average summer temperatures in Qatar regularly exceed 50 °C. That’s more than 120 °F! To date, more than 1,200 migrant workers have died on the job as they help build the country’s infrastructure for such a massive event. Many of those deaths have been related to heat stress. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) estimates that 4,000 migrant workers will die by the time the first game is played in 2022. Insane, right? Adoption of a stricter safety and health regulatory framework in these Arab states certainly wouldn’t hurt. But what else can be done?
Your workforce may not be facing temperatures of 120 °F but any workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps or heat rashes. Not to mention sweaty palms *cough* and fogged-up safety glasses. Providing training to workers so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety and how it can be prevented is crucial this time of year.
Some of this may seem self-evident but here are some tips to keep your crews safe this summer:
- Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
- Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing.
- Gradually build up to heavy work.
- Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
- Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity.
- Take breaks in the shade or a cool area when possible.
- Drink water frequently. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated!
- Make sure you get down at least 1 cup every 15-20 minutes.
- Avoid alcohol (duh), and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar.
- Sqwincher® is a great choice for the manufacturing environment
- Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.
- Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.
- Check out Cool Shirt® Systems Safe Temp Sensor