Occupational Health & Safety

Getting employees into a temperature hardening program allows them to become acclimated.

The Best Web Resources for Heat Problems

As the hot weather approaches or if you have a hot work environment, get your employees into a temperature hardening program so they become acclimated.

When we talk about working in hot environments, there are several maladies that can befall us. They are:

  • Heat cramps -- muscle pain and cramping
  • Heat exhaustion -- excessive sweating in hot environments
  • Heat stroke -- a life-threatening condition due to the body's not being able to sweat

A good starting point for preventing these problems is the American Red Cross's Heat Wave Safety Checklist: http://www.redcross.org/www-files/Documents/pdf/Preparedness/checklists/HeatWave.pdf

Facts Sheets and Posters
The question frequently comes up, "What is heat stress?" For the answer, we can turn to one of several agency websites. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says simply, "Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress." That can lead to one or more of the conditions listed above (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/). So heat stress is the stress on the body while working in hot conditions, be they temperature or the work environment.

Cal/OSHA developed a fact sheet on heat illnesses that federal OSHA has reprinted on its website. The flyer is available in English (3422) and Spanish (3423) but can be used with employees who speak other languages because it uses illustrations to convey the information. You can download those fact sheets at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/3422_factsheet_en.pdf and at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/3423_factsheet_sp.pdf.

To go along with that fact sheet and a new poster that OSHA has released is a trainers' guide titled "Water, Rest, Shade –- Health Illness Prevention Training Guide; A Lesson Plan for Employers." This 50-page guide provides information on how to use the information in the fact sheets and the poster. The manual has examples of both and shows them in English and Spanish. You can download the guide at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/osha_heattraining_guide_0411.pdf and the poster at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/3431_wksiteposter_en.pdf or at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/3432_wksiteposter_sp.pdf. The posters are laminated on heavy stock and will resist the weather for a while.

NIOSH has a similar, two-page fact sheet titled "Protect Yourself from Heat Stress" that can be downloaded at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2010-114/pdfs/2010-114.pdf.

Tools for Understanding the Risk Factors
The U.S. Air Force has had fatalities due to heat stress. It released a 10-minute video on the subject in 2010 explaining the causes, environmental factors, and types of heat stress. This helpful video had been watched more than 5,800 times as of December 2011. You can view it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txQO6hAHozM.

As the hot weather approaches or if you have a hot work environment (metal smelting, glass making, and plastics molding are some examples of such environments), your employees need to get into a temperature hardening program so they become acclimated to the increasing stress on their body from the higher temperatures. You can get some background information on engineering controls, administrative and work practices, and some of the formulas to calculate the heat load in the OSHA Technical Manual, Section III, Chapter 4, which can be downloaded from http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iii/otm_iii_4.html.

In any of these situations, temperature, humidity, wind speed, and clothing or PPE in use all make a difference.

If you are looking for information on developing work/rest schedules for hot environments, I suggest that you purchase the current TLVs® and BEIs® book from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). This is a copyrighted publication and must be purchased from them at http://www.acgih.org/store/.

OSHA has reprinted a U.S. Army work/rest chart that can be found at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/work_rest_schedules.html, and there are examples of some schedules.

Back in 1986, NIOSH developed a Recommended Standard for Occupational Exposure to Hot Environments. This book gives you background, control, prevention, and measuring information. The chapters include: Recommendations for a Standard, Introduction, Heat Balance and Heat Exchange, Biologic Effects of Heat, Measurement of Heat Stress, Control of Heat Stress, Preventive Medical Practices, Indices for Assessing Heat Stress and Strain, Research Needs, and References. There are links at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/86-113.html that will allow you to download the book in one file or several chapters to a file, which may be easier on some systems.

If you or your employees will be working in hot environments, ease yourself into the work and follow the Recommendations for Workers on CDC’s Heat Stress Topics page at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/. Many of these publications on the OSHA and NIOSH websites can either be downloaded or you can order copies to be mailed to you for free.

Until next time.... If you have an idea you'd like me to explore in Web Walking, just send an e-mail to RegulatoryMavin@yahoo.com and let your fingers do their walking through the Web With Weissman.

Editor's note: This article has now been translated into Serbo-Croatian language by Jovana Milutinovich from Webhostinggeeks.com.

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Barry R. Weissman, REM, CSP, CHMM, CHS-V, CIPS, is Corporate Safety Manager for a national manufacturing company in the chemical sector. A member of the editorial advisory board of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, he can be reached at RegulatoryMavin@yahoo.com.

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