Protect Your Employees from Heat Related Illness
Heat illness can be deadly. As a matter of fact, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job in 2014.1 The good news is that heat illnesses and deaths are preventable.
The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn't enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels and you can develop heat-related illnesses that include:
- Heatstroke - a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness
- Heat exhaustion - an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
- Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise
- Heat rash - skin irritation from excessive sweating
The risk of heat-related illness becomes greater as the weather gets hotter and more humid. This situation is particularly serious when hot weather arrives suddenly early in the season, before employees have had a chance to adapt to warm weather.
Any employee exposed to hot and humid conditions is at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some employees might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions including new employees, temporary employees, or those returning to work after a week or more off. All employees are at risk during a heat wave.
Employees suffering from heat exhaustion are at greater risk for accidents, since they are less alert and can be confused. Having a serious injury or death occur at your dealership or collision center affects everyone at the organization.
So what are you doing to protect your employees from heat related illness?
Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting employees from extreme heat. It’s time to establish a complete heat illness prevention program, one that includes planning for emergencies, training employees on prevention, and monitoring employees for signs of illness.
Start by ensuring your dealerships and collision centers have:
- Plenty of hydrations stations with water and electrolyte replacement drinks like Sqwincher.
- Shaded or air conditioned areas available for breaks and if employees need to recover.
- Taught employees the common signs and symptoms of heat illness.
- Reminded employees of the importance of drinking water frequently, even when they are not thirsty.
- Communicated to employees who should be notified if there is an emergency and that it is in everyone’s best interest to report symptoms early.
You may also consider providing your employees with cooling products such as Chill-Its cooling wrist sweatbands, towels, vests and hats. In addition, starting work earlier and ending earlier or adding more scheduled breaks during heat waves are options for consideration.
1U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
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