Tips For Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
While taking a backseat to pandemic related concerns, protecting cleaning and maintenance workers from the perils of heat-related illnesses remains a serious topic. By implementing a heat illness prevention plan that details the signs of heat overexposure, what to do in cases of emergency, and how to delegate different responsibilities in those scenarios, BSCs and facility cleaning staffs alike and improve the safety of their employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has several key resources managers can access for free in order to put forth a solidified heat safety plan. Several categories to consider are clearly listed with step-by-step details on what to consider.
Planning and Supervision
Knowing how to create a plan is the first step. OSHA lays out many important factors to consider making sure everyone is adequately accounted for in a heat emergency. A few notable considerations include:
• Who will provide oversight on a daily basis?
• How will new workers gradually develop heat tolerance?
• Temporary workers may be more susceptible to heat and require closer supervision.
• Workers returning from extended leave (typically defined as more than two weeks) may also be at increased risk.
• How will the employer ensure that first aid is adequate and the protocol for summoning medical assistance in situations beyond first-aid is effective?
Personal Risk Factors
From physiologically monitoring each individual’s response to heat stress (i.e. measuring heart rate), to understanding key risk factors to heat, employees can protect themselves by understanding the importance of self-assessment and being particularly careful for employees around them. Some key risk factors that can enhance the likeliness of heat illness include:
• Obesity (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2)
• High blood pressure
• Heart disease
• Lower level of physical fitness
• Use of certain medications such as diuretics (water pills) and some psychiatric or blood pressure medicines
• Some medications can result in a worker's inability to feel heat conditions and/or the inability to sweat, so symptoms of heat stress may not be evident.
These are just a few of the key takeaways recommended by OSHA for managers keeping their employees safe from the heat. For more information on risk factors, steps for creating a heat-illness prevention guide, varying heat standards for businesses in different states and much more, check out the complete OSHA page on heat safety.
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