It’s that time of the year again when you can fry eggs on the black top roads of Louisiana. I just checked my mobile weather app and it’s 95 degrees with a heat index of 109 in south central Louisiana. WOW! This is also the time of the year when workers are exposed to heat related illnesses and deaths, which can lead to other summertime workforce injuries. When workers operate in high heat conditions, they often lose focus of jobsite safety requirements. They take shortcuts or disregard critical steps in order to finish the job more quickly to get out of the heat. This commonly results in workers cutting hands, lifting heavy loads, slipping, tripping, falling, and creating many other occupational injuries.
In a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was stated that 7,233 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States from 1999 to 2009. An analysis of 2012 data indicates that deaths are on the rise. In a 2-week period in 2012, excessive heat exposure resulted in 32 deaths in four states, four times the typical average for those states for the same 2-week period from 1999-2009.
I have investigated many heat related illnesses and have found that most of these were avoidable. Lack of proper hydration or cool down breaks were the leading causes. Consuming caffeinated drinks and/or not enough water is a definite path to a heat-related illness when working in 90+ degree weather in Louisiana. In addition to proper hydration, a simple break in the shade and cooling down your joints can go a long way in preventing these injuries. According to the CDC, more people die from heat related illnesses than from tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and lightening combined.
To respond to these statistics, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created a mobile phone app to help workers be safe in the heat. I downloaded the app and found it to be extremely resourceful and affordable (FREE) . It calculates heat index based on temperature and humidity and tells you what precautions to take. So I urge you to download it and use it during your daily pre-job briefings. There is no doubt it can help to prevent heat-related illnesses at your jobsite. To get the app click below, or search your phone’s app store for OSHA Heat Safety Tool.
In closing, I want emphasize that you don’t have to stop working outside just because we’re facing the summer heat. Rather, taking precautions can ensure your crew stays safe and productive. I hope you have found this article to be informative and that you will visit us next time we discuss safety topics relate to your industry.
For further reading, I encourage you to explore the following resources:
New Resources on Extreme Heat
· "Extreme Heat and Your Health” Website: This new page collects CDC resources on extreme heat in one place and provides information on how to prevent heat-related illnesses and deaths for a variety of audiences. The site can be accessed at http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/
· Environmental Public Health Tracking Data: CDC’s Environmental Public Health Tracking Network introduces new data on heat-stress hospitalizations and emergency room visits from 2000-2011. Decision makers can use these data to plan how and where to focus efforts to protect the public from extreme heat. The Tracking Network can be accessed at www.cdc.gov/ephtracking.
· Climate Change and Extreme Heat Events Guidebook: This recently released guidebook for state and local health departments describes how to prepare for and respond to extreme heat events and explains how the frequency, duration, and severity of these events are increasing as a result of climate change. An audio file for the recent CDC Extreme Heat webinar is also available for tips and guidance. The guidebook is available at http://www.cdc.gov/climateandhealth/pubs/ClimateChangeandExtremeHeatEvents.pdf
The webinar archive can be accessed at: https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/meetingArchive?eventId=qozysq4qk56y
· Workplace Solutions Bulletin: This recently released NIOSH bulletin provides updated statistics, case studies and recommendations for workers and employers to follow in order to reduce the risk of heat-related illness when working outdoors. The report provides specific guidance and examplesThe NIOSH resources are available at:
Listen to a recent webinar presented by APHA
Meeting Archive: Beating the Heat: Preparing for Extreme Heat Events at the State and Local Level