Common Causes of Industrial Heat Stress
Whether you manage workers in an outdoor environment, a hot forge, or a busy manufacturing facility, chances are your employees encounter hot and humid environments at some point during their shift. It’s easy to focus on air temperature alone when considering heat risks, but in fact, heat stress can be intensified by things you might not always think about.
Here are some common causes of industrial heat stress that are easy to miss:
Working in Direct Sunlight
Bulky Clothing and PPE
So how can you prepare your workers for the heat?
Acclimatize Workers for the Heat
According to OSHA, over 70 percent of heat-related deaths occur during a worker’s first week on the job. Acclimatize your workers to typical jobsite weather conditions over the course of one-to-two weeks to help their bodies prepare for the heat and develop physiological defenses. Start by exposing new workers to less than 20% of a usual workload in the heat and exposing experienced workers to less than 50%.
Provide Easy Access to Cold Drinks
If your worksite’s water source isn’t immediately nearby for your workers or it isn’t being consistently cooled, your team won’t hydrate properly with fluids that are unpalatable. Provide your workers constant access to cold water and electrolyte-replacing beverages so they can stay hydrated and cool throughout their shift.
Track Your Microclimate
Be sure you’re taking all heat-producing factors into account on the jobsite so you can adjust rest periods and work shifts. The best way to tell the true temperature of an area is by using a wet bulb globe temperature monitor (WBGT) to measure the reading of your specific microclimate. The monitor tracks different environmental factors to give you a more accurate reading of the area than a normal thermometer would.
Factors a WBGT tracks include:
Air Temperature | Humidity | Heat from the Sun | Wind Speed
Provide PPE for Hot Conditions
Make sure you’re providing the lightest form of safety gear that will keep your people protected. PPE that’s made with air-permeable materials, moisture wicking fibers, and material engineered to be cool to the touch can help to release heat and moisture without compromising safety. Particularly when cooler alternatives aren’t available, be sure to supply body cooling PPE to wear in addition to required gear. Cooling bandanas, hats, neck gaiters, and towels can help to lower body temperatures and provide relief.
Promote Around-the Clock Hydration
You can help prevent heat illness by reminding your workers to continuously drink cold water or electrolyte-replacing beverages during their shift. But, that may not be enough to avoid heat stress. Tell your employees to hydrate before and after work to replenish any lost fluids, salts, or electrolytes.
Get free tools to help protect your workers in the heat
on our Summer of Heat Illness Prevention page!