June is National Safety month, and in observance of this important topic we will post a new article each week in June that focuses on safety to promote a safe and healthy workplace. Check out last week’s post and stay tuned for next week’s post in this safety series.
Outside of the workplace, warmer weather may bring a feeling of excitement. After all, it opens a window of opportunities for outdoor activities to partake in such as relaxing at the pool, long bike rides, softball leagues, etc. However, an unfortunate reality we face, especially in the workplace, is that with heat comes danger. As we continue to see an increasing number of illnesses in the construction industry due to heat stress, it’s important that we all take appropriate steps to prevent heat-related illness.
Recognize the Hazards
We all realize that those of us who regularly work outside are most prone to heat-related illness. This is especially true in the southern United States where temperatures can regularly be over 100°F. The hazard may not be as obvious to those located in cooler areas such as Minnesota or North Dakota or who work indoors.
Regardless, it’s important to understand that there are multiple factors that can cause heat illness, no matter what type of environment we work in. The most obvious factor that can contribute to heat illness is air temperature.
Humidity level, or the amount of moisture that is present in the air, can also present a heat risk even in lower temperatures. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15° Fahrenheit. The Heat Index graph can provide us with a better idea of risk level when air temperatures are mixed with humidity levels.
Heat-Related Illness Prevention Measures
- Acclimatization: It can take some of us up to two weeks for our bodies to acclimate to extreme shifts in temperature. If the air temperature and/or humidity has quickly spiked, it’s best if we don’t overexert our bodies initially. We may not be physically ready for it and a heat-related illness could result.
- Water accessibility: Have plenty of cool, clean drinking water in the ready. In most cases, water sources on job sites will be labeled as “Potable” if it’s safe to drink.
- Available shade: Try to take regular breaks in the shade if temperatures exceed 80°F. Consider rotating breaks with another co-worker to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
Lastly, some of us may simply be more prone to heat-related illness than others because of personal characteristics, such as age, weight, physical and medical conditions. When determining whether there is a heat risk present within your work environment, it is important to take all of this information into account so potential disasters are alleviated. For additional information on this subject, please contact Kris Johnson or email [email protected].