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The Heat is On!

June 8, 2022

How to Advocate for the Safety of Your Telecom Teams

OSHA recently shared guidance about how to advocate for your team members this summer. 

Heat-related illness can affect workers at indoor or outdoor worksites. And since each body is different, it’s important to be proactive to help those who handle heat stress less effectively than others. Heat intolerance happens for a variety of reasons. Personal risk factors include:

  • Obesity (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Lower level of physical fitness
  • Use of certain medications such as diuretics (water pills) and some psychiatric or blood pressure medicines
  • Some medications can result in a worker's inability to feel heat conditions and/or the inability to sweat, so symptoms of heat stress may not be evident.
  • Alcohol use
  • Use of illicit drugs such as opioids, methamphetamine, or cocaine

The above list shared on www.osha.com is not comprehensive. Other medical conditions can also predispose workers to heat-related illnesses.  The key is that you must recognize that not all workers tolerate heat the same way.

Workplace controls should focus on making jobs safe for all the employees. An occupational medical monitoring program can identify workers who are at increased risk of heat illness, while maintaining the confidentiality of workers’ health information.

Be Proactive

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

That means your team should create a written plan to prevent heat-related illness. Important elements to consider include:

  • Who will provide oversight on a daily basis?
  • How will new workers gradually develop heat tolerance?
  • Temporary workers may be more susceptible to heat and require closer supervision.
  • Workers returning from extended leave (typically defined as more than two weeks) may also be at increased risk.
  • How will the employer ensure that first aid is adequate and the protocol for summoning medical assistance in situations beyond first-aid is effective?
  • How will heat stress be measured?
  • How to respond when the National Weather Service issues a heat advisory or heat warning?
  • How will we determine if the total heat stress is hazardous?
  • What training will be provided to workers and supervisors?

OSHA reiterates that heat conditions can change rapidly and management commitment to adjusting heat stress controls is critical to prevent heat illness. Proper training should be given to a team member about how to:

  • identify and control heat hazards;
  • recognize early symptoms of heat stress;
  • administer first aid for heat-related illnesses; and
  • activate emergency medical services quickly when needed.

Please visit OSHA’s complete website and Additional Resources page for more details about how to protect your team members. 

Source: https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure/training
About the Author

ISE Staff