This blog will be the start of a series key safety topics directed to business leaders. One of the primary elements of a successful safety program is leadership buy in. Sure, it is the rare person who doesn’t care if someone gets hurt. I know that you are not that person. But we also need to acknowledge that sometimes our actions mess up the safety message. For example, do we send one message when everything from a production standpoint is running smoothly and one that encourages safety compromises when we are trying to catch up after down time?
This blog series will focus on significant hazards. We will keep these short and to the point. The purpose of the series is not to provide an exhaustive and detailed document. Each topic will present a hazard and you will receive practical insight and helpful tools to so you can determine how well your company is controlling the hazard.
Here we go. Our first topic is a timely one as summer is approaching and we have already experienced some hot and humid days. OSHA takes the topic of work-related heat illnesses seriously and provides a great deal of information at a webpage. Here is the link to the webpage http://1.usa.gov/1o56Pzc
There were thirty one (31) workplace fatalities related to outdoor heat illness in 2012. On top of that there are thousands of heat-related illnesses that send workers to hospitals and result in lost work time. In the United States, 650 or more people die each year due to heat illnesses. Summertime heat impacts the elderly more than any other group.
There are a number of heat-related illnesses. The four that are most often discussed include: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The term heat stress is often used as the overall term for when a person’s body is not regulating heat effectively. Any of the four illnesses could result. For a description of heat-related illnesses check out the OSHA Fact Sheet found at this link. http://1.usa.gov/1oCJtyv
The OSHA information is geared to the outdoor worker, but heat stress can happen indoors. Most manufacturing environments create significant heat levels that can result in heat illness all the way to heat stroke. This is especially true during the summer months when an already hot environment gets even hotter with added humidity. Many of the recommended actions to deal with outdoor heat will also apply to indoor work.
Here are some questions that will help evaluate your company’s level of preparedness to deal with the hazards of heat.
1. Do we have a Heat Illness Prevention Policy in place?
2. How do we determine when outdoor weather conditions are such that work should be suspended? OSHA has an app for android smartphones and iphones that will calculate a heat index. Here is the link to the information http://1.usa.gov/1oMWGTC
3. Do we intentionally allow for workers to acclimate to hot weather, especially during heat waves?
4. How well do we promote the importance of drinking water before work, during work and after work to maintain good hydration levels?
5. When first arriving to a work site, do we evaluate where workers can get shade or take cover to get a break from the hot sun?
6. What are our procedures relating to rest breaks?
7. How well are supervisors trained to monitor workers for signs of heat illness?
8. Do we have first aid trained personnel on the job and how soon would help arrive after a 911 call is made?
Hopefully, you know the answers or can get the answers to these questions from your team. The OSHA information provides practical guidance and suggestions to help put a policy together and to be able to give great answers to the questions.
Please let us know your thoughts relating to this topic, suggestions for future topics and if we can help you with this or any other aspect of your compliance,
Rich Galutia CSP specializes in the areas of employee safety (OSHA), trucking compliance (FMCSA) and animal feed safety (FDA).