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OSHA’s Hot-Weather Tips Can Save Lives

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Water. Rest. Shade. (OSHA ad)The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has released important information on how workers can stay safe in extreme heat that can cause illness and even death. This comes in handy in the midst of a long streak of unusually hot weather across the U.S.

OSHA reports that, every year, thousands of workers become sick from heat exposure, and some even die. But these illnesses and deaths are preventable. To address this problem, OSHA has a national outreach campaign to raise awareness. It includes a website that provides information for workers and employers about heat illnesses and how to prevent them; training tools that employers can use; and posters to display at work sites, including resources for vulnerable workers with limited reading skills or who do not speak English as their first language.

OSHA is also in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide weather service alerts. NOAA’s Heat Watch page now features worker safety precautions when extreme heat alerts are issued.

The U.S. has been going through a period of very hot weather, as Jim Forsyth reports for Reuters,

The unrelenting heat in central and eastern states has led to a slew of ‘Heat Superlatives’ in 2011, according to meteorologist Chris Dolce. More than a dozen U.S. cities from Tallahassee to Minneapolis have seen all-time highs exceeding any temperature on record for any month, Dolce reported on Sunday.

Heat and humidity were forecast to continue with air temperatures and heat index readings climbing well into the triple digits for parts of the central United States at least through midweek. ‘It’s pretty incredible to just be locked into a pattern of this kind of dry heat for this long for the Southern Plains,’ said senior meteorologist Dan Pydynowski. ‘There doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight,’ he said.

And here in Colorado, The Denver Post reported on August 1 that “With the temperatures in the low 90s all afternoon — topping at 94 at 1:23 p.m. — Denver has had 18 straight 90-plus days. The record, set in 2008, is 24 days. Eighteen ties for second, matching hot spells from 1901 and 1874.”

OSHA suggests that businesses and workers keep in mind three simple words to prevent heat-related illness: Water, rest, and shade. Because heat illness occurs when the body can’t cool itself off enough, it is best when working outdoors to drink four cups of water every hour, to take breaks to help your body to recover, and to rest in the shade or in an air-conditioned space to help you cool down.

In addition, it is important to wear light-colored cotton clothing, a hat, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn. It’s also important to look out for your co-workers, report symptoms of heat illness immediately, and know where you’re working, so if you have to call 911, you can give them the location.

According to Clarksville Online, following are the symptoms of heat-related illness:

•    Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Usually, when your body builds up heat, you sweat to get rid of the extra heat. With heat stroke, your body can’t cool down. The symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.  HEAT STROKE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.  CALL 911 if a coworker shows any signs of heat stroke.
•    Heat exhaustion happens when your body loses too much water and salt through sweating. Symptoms may include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating.
•    Heat fatigue, heat cramps, and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of over exposure to heat.

You can save a stricken co-worker’s life while you are waiting for help to arrive by taking the following steps:

  • Move the worker to a cool, shady area.
  • Loosen the person’s clothing.
  • Fan air on the worker.
  • Apply cool water or ice packs to his or her skin.

Image by Occupational Safety & Health Administration, used under Fair Use: Reporting.


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