Since the 1960s, temperatures have progressively gotten higher and this is especially significant for employees who work outside or indoors in hot environments. It is estimated that there are as many as 170,000 cases of heat-related illness per year. Heat stress is a series of conditions which causes the body to be under stress from overheating. Effects may include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat rash, or heat stroke, each with its own symptoms and treatments. Symptoms can range from profuse sweating to dizziness, cessation of sweating, and collapse. At very high exposures, it can cause cardiac strain, kidney injury, and stroke.
Recently governmental and private organizations have begun to take heat stress seriously. The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) has created a Thermal Stress Working Group which is in the final stages of a proposed standard. State agencies such as California, Washington, and Oregon have increased legislative efforts to address heat hazards and OSHA has published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. Unfortunately, with OSHA rulemaking it often takes years to enact and implement.
For those who do not want to wait for OSHA, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has developed a Threshold Limit Value (TLV) for heat stress and strain. By following this guideline, employers can protect acclimatized workers from the effects of heat. Its goal is to maintain core temperature to +1 degree C for the average person.
In addition to finding a standard for measuring heat stress, employers should develop a worksite heat stress management plan. The National Heat Safety Coalition, a division of the Korey Stringer Institute, published a consensus document in the August 2021 issue of the journal GeoHealth . It presented 50 recommendations for such a plan that include:
- Heat Hygiene Practices (Education)
- Hydration (Planning how to keep employees hydrated.)
- Heat Acclimatization (Most heat related illnesses occur within 3 days of work. This is especially important for new employees and those returning to work after long absence.)
- Environmental Monitoring (Measuring air temperature, air speed, relative humidity, and radiant heat and following local weather forecasting.)
- Physiological Monitoring (Measuring core temperature and heart rate.)
- Body Cooling (Covering as much of the body as possible and keeping it cool with cooling vests, etc.)
- Textiles/PPE (Using clothing that provides shade and cooling.)
- Emergency Procedures (Aggressive whole body cooling within 30 minutes of collapse . heat stroke. Contact emergency services and have ice towels on hand.)
For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at www.occusafeinc.com. OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety Services, Inc. Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues or see past newsletters at occusafeinc.com/category/news