14 Heat Stress TipsJune 27, 2013 No Comments
I’ve worked at factories that had extremely hot operations! Under normal operating conditions, the temperatures on the work floor would exceed 100 degrees. You add to that a mid-summer heat wave, and you have a dangerous combination.
Here are 14 proven methods you might want to use to help your workers stay cool and comfortable during a summer heat wave:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Encourage employees to hydrate continuously. Allow them to take water and other beverages back to their work stations. While plain water is probably the best liquid to drink in the heat, most workers think they need (and are entitled to) Gatorade. Many employers provide workers with free, unlimited Gatorade when it is extremely hot. Some employers make Gatorade from a powder mix. While this may be the cheapest way to go – it’s messy, unsanitary, and the mixing and cleaning requires lots of time. A company I formerly worked for buys pallets of 16-ounce bottles of Gatorade from Sam’s Club. They have their own “convenience store” type cooler in the employee lunch room and keep it stocked with nine flavors of Gatorade. The single serve bottle method is quicker, more sanitary, and less work than Gatorade powder. Also, employees prefer the convenience and wide selection of flavors offered by bottles. Finally, do not pressure employees to drink Gatorade; diabetic employees should drink Gatorade only with the approval of their doctor.
- Remind employees not to drink any alcoholic beverages before coming to work on a hot day. Alcohol dehydrates a person. Heat stress victims who succumb early in the work shift are often already dehydrated when they came to work. The only people I ever took to the emergency room with heat exhaustion, were found to have been drinking before coming to work by our post accident drug/alcohol test.
- Adjust the working schedules. Mornings are usually the coolest part of the day. Start operations earlier so the employees can go home earlier before the plant heats up in the afternoon.
- Open large overhead outside doors, especially during the evening hours. Run the plants’ general ventilation fans while the doors are open to draw cool night air into the plant, and exhaust hot inside air to the outside.
- Install large fans in the ceiling to help keep air in the facility moving. When the dew point is high, moisture tends to condense on concrete floors. This “concrete sweating” can cause slips and falls, and fork trucks to slide out of control. Ceiling fans will keep water from condensing on concrete floors when the dew point is high.
- Allow the use of personal fans that blow directly on the employee while they are working. It is acceptable for workers to bring fans from home as long as the fan is “UL approved”, in good repair, and has a blade guard that would prevent fingers from touching the blades. Take care that these individual floor fans’ cords do not create workplace “tripping” hazards.
- During hot temperatures, provide employees with extra paid rest brakes (preferably in an air conditioned area. One company provides one extra break per shift when the temperature is over 85; and two additional breaks when the temperature is over 90.
- When the temperature in the plant is extreme (e.g. over 90), employees could be given the option of going home if they choose. The workers who leave would not be paid for their non-productive time, nor would they need to take sick time or vacation time for the authorized absence.
- A Milwaukee Wisconsin company passes out Popsicles to their employees when it’s hot. During a recent record braking hot spell, they passed out Popsicles five different times during a single shift. You should see the big smiles on their employees faces when the Popsicle lady walks through the plant! Please remember that diabetic employees should eat Popsicles (or drink Gatorade) only with the approval of their doctor.
- Heat may affect some workers more than others. Certain employees may be more susceptible to heat stress due to their: older age, chronic medical conditions, excessive weight, or prescription medications. Tell employees (especially the more susceptible ones) that if they start to develop the early symptoms of heat exhaustion they should immediately report it to supervisor.
- Allow employees to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts during the heat wave (provided doing so does not create a hazard).
- Provide personal cooling systems (PCS) for your employees. PCSs are simply soaked in cool water for 30-minutes. Then they are worn by the worker. There are a variety of PCSs including: bandannas, tie hats, head bands, and vests. The most popular type of PCS seems to be the head bands (either worn around the head or the neck). Of course do not allow water soaked personal cooling systems on employees who are exposed to electricity.
- Free ice for employees during hot spells. Keep bags of ice in unlocked chest freezers in the work area. Allow employees to get ice whenever they feel the need. Workers put ice in their drinks, and also may use it for cooling their bodies.
- Train employees in the causes, symptoms and prevention of heat stress.
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