It’s imperative job site supervisors share toolbox talks on heat stress safety during periods of extreme heat.
Of course, the dangers of heat stress go well beyond the job site – to athletics, weekend recreation and everyday life. Whether at work or play, it’s important to stay cool and hydrated.
Heat stress safety: Know when to take a break
Heat impacts people differently, so opportunities for rest should be made available to workers in hot work environments whenever needed. Ideally, access to shaded and cool areas should be conveniently located near the job site.
Proper heat acclimation is also key. Elevated core body temperature and heart rate can occur during the first few days of working on a hot job site, when the body is strained the most. As workers become acclimated to the hot conditions, the strain decreases, and in turn, work rate improves.
Work-to-rest ratio factors to consider include:
- Working in direct sunlight
- Work intensity
- Clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE)
Off the clock, workers should rest in a cool environment and stay hydrated. Resisting the urge to spend more time in the heat will pay off in the long run.
The role of PPE and hydration in reducing heat stress
Employers owe it to their workers to make sure they’re equipped to handle the heat.
Federal OSHA standards don’t specifically address outdoor heat exposure and prevention of heat-related illnesses. However, Section 5(a)(1) of the General Duty Clause requires that employers provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards” that could seriously harm workers.
Workers should cover their skin to prevent sunburn, but also wear loose-fitting clothing that lets sweat evaporate, while also stopping radiant heat. This is where utilizing evaporative cooling products, such as cooling triangle hats, cooling towels and cooling bandanas becomes important.
Evaporative cooling products absorb water and cool more than ambient air does, helping regulate the body’s core temperature. If a job requires wearing multiple layers of PPE (turnout gear, hazmat suits, etc.), workers should use products such as cooling vests to provide much-needed cooling relief underneath or over their other protective apparel.
Finally, hydration is essential. Drink water every 15 minutes to prevent dehydration.
This blog post was drafted in partnership with Ergodyne. Check out Ergodyne’s original articles:
- Know when to take a break in the heat – toolbox talks
- PPE’s role in reducing heat stress
- Ergodyne offers more relief from summer heat with Chill-Its® additions