Summer is here and with it comes the dangers associated with heat, especially for those working in the heat throughout the summer months. It is important that workers know the dangers associated with extreme heat and are educated on ways to prevent and treat illness that arises as a result of increasing temperatures.
A heat hazard occurs when the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, which affects the body’s ability to rid itself of heat. Other factors like humidity, bodily fluids and salts also affect this process. If the body cannot get rid of heat it stores, it causes the body’s core temperature to rise. When the body stores too much heat the person will begin to lose concentration, may become irritable or sick, and lose the desire to drink. Following stages are fainting and even death. According to OSHA, each year dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill due to working in extreme heat. More than 40 percent of those who die due to heat exposure work in the construction industry.
Risk levels of heat hazards begin to increase when the temperature reaches 91 degrees. At this temperature the risk level is moderate and employees should begin to implement precautions and use heightened awareness. At 103 degrees the risk level becomes high. Additional precautions should be used to protect workers. At greater than 115 degrees the risk is very high to extreme and workers should utilize even more protective measures. Other factors to watch out for are an increase in humidity, increase in sun strength, little air movement, no controls in place, and strenuous work.
BCSP hopes everyone has a safe and happy summer and remember to be safe if you’re working in hot conditions!