Well, it’s summer again and we should be thinking about heat stress to make sure workers don’t overheat this year. Heat stress is a risk for people working outdoors but also for those working inside.
What Is Heat Stress?
So what is heat stress? When the body can’t cool itself by sweating, a range of heat-related issues can occur, including heat rashes, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke (which is the most dangerous). These are collectively known as heat stress.
Heat Stress Training Materials
We’ve got a bunch of materials that should help you train your workers on heat stress, so let’s get to listing them below.
Engineering controls are always the best and most effective. So begin by trying to create a cooler working environment. Here are some things to consider/try:
Local exhaust ventilation near places of high heat
Reflective shields to redirect radiant heat
Insulation of hot surfaces, such as near furnaces or boilers
Repairing steam leaks
Heat Stress and Work Practices
Sometimes an engineering control isn’t feasible or it’s not enough. In that case, look into work practices (also sometimes called administrative controls). Here are some ideas:
Create an emergency plan that covers what to do if a worker has signs of heat-related illness, and ensures that medical services are available if needed.
Take steps that help workers become acclimatized (gradually build up exposure to heat), especially workers who are new to working in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
Provide plenty of safe drinking water close to the work area, encourage workers to drink it, and make sure they know to drink small amounts frequently.
Try to schedule work day so workers are exposed to heat for more frequent, shorter periods instead of fewer, longer periods. (See About Work/Rest Schedules.)
Try if possible to reduce physical working demands during hot weather, and/or schedule heavier work for cooler times of the day.
Have workers rotate job functions to limit any one worker’s total heat exposure.
Train workers about the symptoms symptoms of heat-related illness, make sure they know to look out for one another, and have them and administer appropriate first aid to anyone who is developing a heat-related illness.
Heat Stress and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Make sure workers know that some personal protective equipment (such as certain types of respirators and impermeable clothing) can increase the risk of heat-related illness. In these cases, workers should be extra vigilant and take extra safety measures to keep cool.
In other situations, special cooling devices can protect workers in hot environments. For example:
In some workplaces, insulated gloves, insulated suits, reflective clothing, or infrared reflecting face shields may be needed.
Thermally conditioned clothing might be used for extremely hot conditions; for example:
A garment with a self-contained air conditioner in a backpack.
A garment with a compressed air source that feeds cool air through a vortex tube.
A plastic jacket whose pockets can be filled with dry ice or containers of ice.
Heat Stress and Training
Be sure to provide training about heat stress and heat-related illnesses. Training should cover:
Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.