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How to Stay Cool in the Summer Heat
All heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Yet, an average of 658 people die each year as a result of exposure to extreme heat.
The summer before last, the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) did an in-depth study on heat exposure. It revealed that more than one-quarter of the U.S. population suffered from symptoms such as nausea, muscle cramps, fainting, and confusion resulting from exposure to extreme heat. With extreme temperatures and a drought expected over the coming months, it’s likely that we’ll see more of the same during the summer of 2022.
Who is included in the most vulnerable populations? Women, people in low-income households, and those who identify as Hispanic or Latino. In the workplace, OSHA reports that more than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but workers in every field are susceptible.
Heat Stress in the Workplace
The combination of temperature, humidity, and physical labor can lead to fatalities. The two most severe forms of heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion (primarily from dehydration) and heat stroke, which could be fatal. Signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke need immediate attention. Recognizing those warning signs and taking quick action can make a difference in preventing a fatality. Employers and employees should know the potential hazards in their workplaces and how to manage them.
Over the years, we’ve shared tips for working safely in the heat and advice on how to prevent occupational heat exposure. Suggestions have included employees wearing light-colored clothing, drinking more water and less caffeine, and taking frequent breaks in the shade. We even created a guide on the dangers of working in extreme temperatures, and how to prevent them.
For employers concerned about employees’ well-being this summer, they may want to consider assigning various training courses on heat stress. These could include:
Heat Stress Recognition and Prevention
Each year, more people in the United States die from extreme heat than from hurricanes, lightning, tornados, floods and earthquakes combined. This course discusses the effects of heat on your body, outlines the risk factors for heat-related illnesses, and describes the associated treatments for each. It also explains several control measure techniques and safe work practices that you can use to prevent heat-related stresses.
Heat Stress Impact: Symptoms
Heat stress occurs when the body fails to control its internal temperature. If heat stress is not recognized and treated early, it can have serious effects on the body such as prickly heat, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of heat exposure to ensure its treated properly.
Heat Stress Impact: Treatment
When human body temperature fails to regulate and rises to critical levels, it indicates that the person is under heat stress. Learn the symptoms of heat stress and what should be done to treat it—including how to respond if someone is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
There are several mobile apps designed to help combat the dangers of heat-related illness. OSHA and NIOSH have an app that allows any worker or supervisor with a smartphone to calculate the heat index for their workplace. The app then assigns a risk level based upon this number. Additionally, the app can provide reminders about protective measures that should be taken to help prevent heat-related illnesses.
101 Critical Days of Summer
Each year, the Department of Defense hosts an awareness campaign from Memorial Day to Labor Day called “101 Critical Days of Summer.” Their goal is to help members of the military – and their families and communities – stay safe from these (and other) common injuries and illnesses in the summertime.
This year, we’ve created a series of four compliance briefs (each 10-15 minutes in length), based on the concept of this program, to help any company looking to provide employees, their families, and the community with important information and insight into common summer safety hazards. After all, workers are not the only people impacted by the summer heat – friends, family, and community are at risk as well. Following is a description of the summer safety compliance briefs:
Compliance Brief: Summer Safety - Food and Fun
This course is designed to help learners identify safety measures to take to avoid becoming injured during common summer outdoor activities, including barbeques, fireworks, playgrounds, sports, walking, jogging, and bicycling.
Compliance Brief: Summer Safety on the Water
This course focuses on boating safety. Topics covered include preparation checklists, safety gear and procedures, developing a float plan, nautical rules of the road, the dangers of alcohol, and how to use personal watercraft safely.
Compliance Brief: Summer Safety in the Water
This course describes risks and safety measures associated with swimming in pools and open water. The content addresses how to secure your pool, pool chemical safety, safe swimming practices, how to manage getting caught in a rip current, and the proper use of sunscreen/sunblock.
Compliance Brief: Summer Vehicle Safety
This course describes risks and hazards associated with summer driving, riding motorcycles, and using recreational off-road vehicles.
It is one thing to provide your employees with the tools to keep them safe, but truly creating a safe workplace takes training all employees, including management. We hope this information arms organizations and individuals with information needed to stay cool and safe over the next few months.
Norman Ford is the VP of Compliance of Skillsoft.