How to Protect Your Team From Workplace Heat - Worksite Medical
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Rest, Water, Shade


Summer is here, which means an increase in workplace heat is likely in non-controlled environments.

OSHA issued a release last week reminding employers to protect employees from the dangers of working in hot weather. The administration’s message on how to combat rising workplace heat remains the same: Rest, water, and shade.

And, with the creation of new wearables and apps, employers can also add technology to the list. 


The Dangers of Workplace Heat


It’s no secret that summer’s heat brings certain dangers to a workplace.


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Dozens of workers die each year due to extreme workplace heat, with most deaths occurring in the construction industry. Heat illness also take its toll with rashes, cramps, exhaustion, and even heat stroke.

Additionally, workplace accidents increase due to sweaty hands, foggy glasses, and heat-induced dizziness.


OSHA’s #RestWaterShade campaign provides employers with the following best practices to follow when the temperatures rise: 


  • Encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes; and take frequent rest breaks in the shade to cool down;
  • Develop an emergency plan that explains what to do when a worker shows signs of heat-related illness;
  • Train workers on the hazards of heat exposure, and how to prevent illness; and
  • Allow workers to build a tolerance for working in heat.


Building a tolerance for working in heat is crucial, as OSHA reports that most heat-related workplace deaths happen during the employee’s first week on the job. It may take up to two weeks for a worker to fully build up a higher resistance to increased temperatures. 


Heat Safety Technology


Technology helps employers supplement OSHA’s “Rest. Water. Shade.” mantra.

Download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app for a real-time heat index, hourly forecasts, and additional safety and health recommendations from both agencies to help better plan for outdoor activities.

The app categorizes current risk conditions from minimal to extreme with heat values forecasted hourly. 

John Howard, M.D., director of NIOSH, stated that, “in many cases, workers rely on their employers to provide opportunities for taking rest breaks and drinking water.

“This app puts life-saving information at the fingertips of both supervisors and workers to inform them when they need to take precautions to stay safe at the worksite.”

Evaporative cooling gear is also becoming a popular trend in hot work environments.

Although common sense might tell you to wear less clothing, cooling garments, such as vests, draw heat from workers’ bodies to provide an enhanced cooling effect.  

While the summer can present heat hazards for workers, it’s important to stay proactive about health and safety on your worksite all year round.

Learn more about instituting a mobile medical surveillance program for comprehensive employee health screening here.

Download the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool here.

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