NIOSH Issues HHE on Heat Stress

The report is based on an evaluation of heat stress at a national park, and it includes recommendations that can be applied at sites where extreme heat may be a factor.

NIOSH recently released a new Health Hazard Evaluation Report about working in extreme heat. The report is based on an evaluation of heat stress at a national park, and it includes recommendations that can be applied at sites where extreme heat may be a factor.

The HHE points out that employers should establish a heat illness prevention program, and it should include assigning outdoor tasks at night or during cooler weather if possible, providing rest periods in shaded or cool areas, ensuring employees have access to water or other hydrating beverages, implementing a mandatory buddy system, and training workers to recognize symptoms of heat-related illness. "This is essential as someone with heat stroke often will not be aware they are not functioning normally," the agency's news release note.

Also recommended are acclimatizing workers and allowing frequent breaks for new workers or those who have been away for a week or more, in order to build a tolerance for working in the heat.

The agency's tips for outdoor workers to help prevent heat-related illness and fatalities:

  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers and call for help immediately if they become confused or act strangely during work in a hot environment. Move them to a cool area immediately.
  • Drink water frequently, even if you are not thirsty. By the time you become thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
  • Use water and low sugar beverages to rehydrate. Avoid alcohol and caffeine in hot environments as these will cause you to become dehydrated quicker.
  • Rest in an air conditioned or shaded area to cool down.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored/light weight clothing.
  • "Easy does it" on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.

For more information on acclimatization and preventing heat-related illnesses, visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.

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