The summer is officially here, and so is the oppressive heat that it can bring. While the effects of heat stress are something we’ve previously covered, getting your site ready for the summer heat should be a proactive measure rather than a reactive solution. We took a look at NIOSH’s latest tips for dealing with extreme heat and put together a simple guide on heat stress controls.
Heat Stress Controls – Knowing Your Limits
Employers and workers alike should be aware of their limits when working in extreme heat and overly hot environments. NIOSH has published an update on recommended alert limits (RALs) for unacclimatized workers and recommended exposure limits for acclimatized workers that should be followed to ensure the safety and productivity of your workers. An acclimatized worker is one who has been exposed to measured or gradual increased exposure to a hot environment to develop beneficial adaptions that allow them to work longer in a hot environment. However, that does not mean that they can or should work unprotected for extended periods of time. According to NIOSH Criteria for Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Heat and Hot Environments, a healthy, standard acclimatized male worker (a worker weighing roughly 154lbs) would be required to take a 50-minute rest after only 10 minutes of heavy work when the temperatures at or exceeding 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, NIOSH recommends that workers work for shorter durations combined with appropriate rest periods to slow down the body’s heat accumulation – helping to mitigate the damage heat stress can do.
Heat Stress Controls – Having a Plan
As the adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail; the risks associated with heat stress are far too high to not have a plan in place. Like many other risk factors on a job site, heat stress can be reduced by implementing engineering and work safety practice controls. Among some of the engineering controls that can be implemented are increasing air flow in work areas, putting up reflective or heat-absorbing shielding or barriers, as well as reducing steam leaks, wet floors and other sources of humidity.
NIOSH also recommends various work practice controls that when applied effectively, can reduce the risk of workers getting hurt due to heat stress. These work practices include:
- Limiting time working in the heat.
- Train supervisors and workers to recognize early signs and symptoms of heat-related illness.
- Use a buddy system where workers can monitor each other for signs of heat stress or heat intolerance.
- Provide adequate amounts of cold, potable water; the NIOSH study recommends workers doing moderate work drink 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes.
- Implement a heat alert program to be notified of forecasted heat waves or other dangerous heat-related weather patterns. In NYC, you can sign up for severe weather warnings (including air quality alerts) from the NYC’s Office of Emergency Management via Notify NYC.
- Institute a heat acclimatization plan and promote physical fitness.
Related Training Courses: 30-Hour OSHA Safety & Health Program
While the summertime is a great time to kick back and relax, we know that on the job site we can’t stop being vigilant when it comes to worker safety. By identifying all risks associated with working in construction, you are better equipped to keep your site running smoothly and most importantly, safely.