Summer is here. Are your crews ready? OSHA warns that heat is the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. Here’s what the death rate looks like spread out over the country.
OSHA mapped fatalities between 2008-2014.
When OSHA looked at 2014 alone, it found that 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness while 18 died from heat stroke and related causes.
So what should you do to make sure 2017 is a heat-illness free year? Here are tips:
- Plan. Make sure your policies address heat illness and include it in your site planning. Assess the risk at that location in advance and make sure you plan for shade and water.
- Train. Ensure that workers recognize the warning signs and understand the proactive steps they need to take to avoid heat illness.
- Download. Download the new OSHA/NIOSH heat app on your phone and have your crews download it. You can find out more and find the link to the App store here. It is meant to give a quick and easy way to monitor the heat index and notify crews when they are at risk. So far the reviews are good, with users saying it is simple and easy to use. NOTE: Many worksites ban smartphones, so review your company policies.
- Hydrate and breaks. Don’t wait until crews show symptoms of heat illness to make sure everyone takes a break and drinks water, at least one pint an hour.
- Work hardening. Studies have shown that most heat-related fatalities strike workers who have been on the job for three days or less. Give new workers or workers returning from illness to acclimatize to the heat (this applies to working outside in the cold as well).
- Proper PPE. Don’t accept that you have to trade protection for comfort. There have been tremendous advances in flame resistant clothing in the last few years. Here is a good article on what to look for. Make sure hard hats fit properly to allow ventilation between the shell and the suspension system. Look at color – In one study, researchers found that the outside temperature of dark blue coveralls was 129 degrees in full sun, while light gray coveralls were 109 degrees. The inside temperature was 106 degrees for the dark blue coveralls and 97 degrees for the light gray ones.