Safety is a top priority year-round in manufacturing plants. But summertime, with its high heat and humidity, can create challenges for shop employees who are trying to stay cool on the job. Not all shops are climate controlled, so it’s important that employees are trained for summertime plant safety.
If you work in a shop, follow these simple, but important, steps to keep safe in the summertime heat.
1. Train employees to prevent heat stress
a. Heat stress is serious. Have weekly safety meetings to make sure all employees are trained to prevent heat stress and recognize the symptoms. (OSHA GUIDELINES)
2. Learn to recognize heat-related illnesses:
a. Heat exhaustion – Caused by sweating so much that you lose body fluid and become dehydrate easily.
i. Symptoms – Lightheadedness, weakness, headache, fatigue, and heavy sweating
ii. Prevention – Drink fluids every 15 minutes. Drink more fluids than you’re sweating out (so you feel the need to urinate). Take short, frequent breaks from the heat. Add sports drink concentrate to your water bottle to restore lost nutrients.
b. Heat stroke – Caused by the body losing the ability to regulate its own temperature because sweating stops. Heat stroke is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
i. Symptoms – Very dry, hot skin (no sweating); dizziness; confusion; drowsiness; disorientation. These symptoms can lead to unconsciousness. Seek immediate medical treatment.
ii. Prevention – Drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated. Take frequent breaks and try to get out of the heat. Don’t let heat exhaustion become so severe it progresses to heat stroke.
3. Worker distraction – Distraction increases the risk of on-the-job injury. Thinking about an upcoming vacation, your child’s next sporting event, or even that big weekend project that’s looming can cause you to be distracted from the task at hand. Even the early stages of heat stress can cause distraction or the inability to concentrate.
a. Prevention – Pay attention to your task at hand; take a break if you find yourself losing concentration. Drink fluids to stay hydrated and have a snack if you haven’t eaten in a few hours.
4. Working outside – Employees who frequently work outside are at risk for heat and sun exposure issues such as sunburn; insect bites; heat-related dehydration; and weather-related risks like lightning.
a. Prevention – Wear sunscreen and protective clothing and eyewear. Seek treatment for an insect bite that becomes red, swollen, or irritated. Alert coworkers and managers if you have an insect-related allergy that needs immediate medical attention if you suffer an insect bite. Go indoors or seek shelter as soon as you hear thunder or see lightning.
5. Water, water everywhere – Make sure your facility has convenient water stations for employees. If you have your own water bottle, make sure it has a secure, closable lid. This prevents dust and other particles from contaminating your water. It also prevents spillage at the work station, which can cause other safety hazards.
Look out for your coworkers, too. If you notice a coworker with any of the above heat-related symptoms, encourage him or her to hydrate and take a break. Tell your supervisor immediately if a coworker shows any signs of heat stress. Make staying 100% safe your goal every day.