Work operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for inducing heat stress in employees engaged in such operations. These activities are often conducted in the following locations: the steam tunnels; pipe chases; some mechanical rooms; outdoor construction activities; particularly on roofs; and outdoor construction activities that require the use of protective clothing.
Employees that are exposed to heat stress risk factors should receive training on how to recognize and prevent the early signs of heat stress and what to do if these symptoms are experienced. Warning signs of heat stress can range from visible sweating (beading on skin), dizziness, fainting, nausea, clumsiness and confusion. These early symptoms should be taken seriously and monitored closely to prevent the progression to more serious conditions, e.g. heat stroke (a medical emergency). Even the type of clothing worn must be considered. In addition, the measurement of a hot environment involves more than just measuring the ambient air temperature -- radiant heat, air movement, and relative humidity are all factors that must be determined.
Some recommendations for preventing heat stress include:
- Know the signs & symptoms of heat-related illnesses; monitor yourself and coworkers.
- Avoid working in direct sun or near other heat sources.
- Use cooling fans and/or air-conditioning; take regular & frequent rest breaks.
- Drink adequate amounts of water or an electrolyte drink, e.g., approximately 1 cup every 15 minutes.
- Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothing.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or other diuretic drinks as well as heavy meals.
Refer to EHSEM's Heat Stress Guideline for assistance in recognizing and eliminating or reducing heat stress risk factors. Contact EHSEM at (313) 593-4914 for more information.
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