Worried about heat stroke from required Personal Protection Equipment (PPE)?
Summer heat already has arrived in various parts of the nation. When the task outdoors requires specific PPE it's important not to ditch safety due to the heat.
Advice to Individual Workers from OSHA
- Take frequent breaks in the shade.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar which promote dehydration.
- Drink small amounts of water, more frequently than the usual recommendation from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies for your body size and environment.
- Ask your health provider if any medications you are taking don't mix well with the sun.
- Look for shade to work in when possible.
- Wear a hat or dew rag.
- Wear long sleeves; tuck pant legs into socks or boots.
- Cool down after work with a lukewarm shower.
How Can You Help Your Workforce?
Need ideas on how to help your team stay energized and productive? First, make sure everyone is aware of the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion
- Headache, dizziness, or fainting
- Weakness and wet skin
- Irritability or confusion
- Thirst, nausea, or vomiting
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
- Confusion, unable to think clearly, fainting, collapsing, or having seizures
- May stop sweating
If you don’t have a heat illness prevention program in place, now is the time to implement one quickly.
Designate a cool place, or provide tents for shade, for workers to place hard hats, goggles, gloves, ear plugs, and other PPE they can take off to lower their body temperature quickly. Have plenty of water available in these stations. Consider misting fans, cooling towels, and hydration packs that provide hours of relief for entire shifts.
Create posters with instructions for cooling station location, and rotations based on the heat that day, or shift adjustments for clear communication.
Get involved in providing training and visual communication about the hazards leading to heat stress and how to prevent it. Make sure cool water is available to workers. Modify work schedules around the high heat times, 10AM - 4PM.
What is OSHA’s stance on protecting yourself from the UV Sun rays?
You learned in grade school that sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin. Gen X’ers and Millennials have been trained to carry around SPF lotions since early childhood. The amount of damage from UV exposure depends on the strength of the light, the length of exposure, and whether the skin is protected. There are no safe UV rays or safe suntans. OSHA doesn’t require employers to provide products with SPF. Many do provide some sort of protection through a heat illness protection program, but being proactive, and using available resources is ultimately part of your personal responsibility.
Self-Examination for Early Signs of Sun Damage
How often do you give yourself a self-examination? Once a year? Every few months or so? Is your stance “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”?
According to OSHA’s leading medical experts, it's important to check yourself at least once a month. Skin cancer detected early, is easily curable. The appearance of an abnormal spot should be checked immediately. Even if a spot is determined to be Melanoma, catching it early means the removal process is usually simple and can be virtually painless.
The most important warning sign is a spot on the skin that changes in size, shape, or color during a period of 1 month to 1 to 2 years.
Skin cancers take the following forms:
- Pale, wax-like, pearly nodules
- Red, scaly, sharply outlined patches
- Sores that don't heal
- Small, mole-like-growths--melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer
Don’t take UV rays, heat, or your health for granted if you’re working outside this summer. Awareness and proactive protection while working will help you bank more of those carefree summer days for years to come.
For more information on creating a heat illness prevention program at work visit OSHA’s summer campaign and educational resources.