Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

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Who is Most Vulnerable to Heat Related Illnesses?

As OSHA progresses through the rule making process on a new standard aimed at protecting workers for heat stress and heat related illnesses we are all feeling the full power of the sun in this summer. As such, our mining and construction communities are loading up on cases of water, sports drinks, chews, cooling devices etc. Heat related illnesses are a common topic in our worlds and frequently covered in various safety trainings, toolbox talks, meetings and around this time of year is the focus of the entire safety community nationwide.

While there are lots of information on the signs and symptoms, along with preventative measures, lets pause for a moment and consider who within our industrial communities are most vulnerable to heat related illnesses and raise overall awareness and attention for these people when they are exposed.

According to NIOSH workers at greater risk of heat stress include:

  • those who are 65 years of age or older
  • are overweight
  • have heart disease or high blood pressure, or
  • take medications that may be affected by extreme heat

Not all of these factors are obvious and some of these conditions are protected by labor and medical privacy laws. Therefore, while it is important that managers and supervisors understand who is at the greatest risk, its equally important the individual workers and the crew understand as well.

Individual workers must also believe their supervisors, management and company leaders fully support whatever company programs are in place to mitigate the risks. Here are a few reminders for simple ways to keep the entire organization focused on all the little things that can make a huge difference.

  1. Include heat related risk on Job Hazard Analysis form
    • Reference the specific risk for the specific day and update if conditions change
    • Reference specific mitigation factors appropriate to the conditions for that day
    • Be sure to review/ remind workers along with the other risk/mitigations related to the job
    • Have the entire crew sign off of the form
  2. Encouraging all workers to download the NIOSH Heat Index App
    • Have the entire crew pull out the app each morning as a part of the pre-shift meeting
    • Use the app for completing the Job Hazard Analysis
  3. Of course frequently including heat stress related discussions as a part of daily/weekly toolbox talks throughout the season makes sense, however strategically planned safety stand downs communicate an even greater level of importance.
    • A stand down at the beginning of the season to review the company program (formal or informal) along with specific information on how the policy will applied at each job site/ work area
    • Be sure all resources and equipment needed to follow the plan are in place
    • Develop a communication process to ensure the program remains effective throughout the season
    • Ensure supervisors prioritize access to the needed resources as defined in the program
    • The summers in the southwest are particularly long and hot, repeating the stand down a few times throughout the season will remind everyone to watch out for themselves and those they work along side
  4. Internal marketing campaign
    • Internal text/email communications
    • company specific tag lines (i.e. crush heat exhaustion) printed on forms and in email signature
    • social media campaigns
    • slogans exchanged at the beginning and end of routine business conversations

McCraren Compliance can help write your heat illness prevention plan, provide training and recommend resources to keep your people cool all summer. Text, email or call for more information.