Heat Stress Prevention In The Workplace

http://www.flickr.com/photos/94693506@N00/These days, successful industries work stringently to stay OSHA compliant, and the majority of companies have effective safety programs in place that have proven to be beneficial to both the company and their employees. For the most part, these companies have succeeded in taking a stand to reduce overall lost time accidents and improve worker safety conditions. But, sometimes even the most effective safety program will overlook critical areas such how to handle seasonal issues such as heat stress. Many safety concerns workers face will occur due to heat stress or worker fatigue, two factors commonly seen throughout industry, especially this time of year.

Typically, occupations that place employees in routine hot environments find themselves subject to heat stress problems more often than those with less severe duties. In environments where an employee is continually subjected to extreme temperatures, that individual is more likely to experience a reduction in work performance or possibly encounter bodily reactions related to heat stress. Heat Stress takes a toll on workers. Whether it is poor worker performance, an injury or fatality, the fact is, if heat stress isn’t recognized and managed properly, it will cost both the employer and employee significantly, through loss of staff and/or loss of revenue. Put it into an economic perspective, the national average cost per worker for a disabling injury is an astounding $48,000. (National Safety Council, “Accident Facts” 2010 edition). A $20,000 increase compared to ten years ago. Simply put, heat stress prevention is cheaper than the alternative.

Prevention Habits

The best recommendation for handling heat stress is to combat the problem through proper hydration procedures coupled with a well-balanced diet and various other common sense methods.

Body Hydration

One of the most important steps is proper body hydration. In order to combat the effects of heat the body perspires, releasing essential moisture to cool the skin. Sweat acts as a built-in cooling system for the body. Once perspiration begins, the effects of dehydration have already started. A dehydrated body pulls water and minerals from many locations inside the body to compensate for a lack of vital elements elsewhere. It is vital to keep the intake of fluids equal to the amount being released through perspiration or urination throughout the day. An important step to remember is to begin hydrating the body before dehydration starts. This means instructing employees to start each day by consuming a regimen of fluids designed with the sole purpose of keeping the body’s hydration and electrolyte balance stabilized.

A common misconception is that water is the complete solution for hydration. However, when a person perspires, no only is water depleted from the cellular composition, essential mineral salts and electrolytes are depleted as well which are necessary in keeping the body safely balanced throughout a rigorous workday. Electrolyte replacement programs such as “Sqwincher” are specifically formulated to promote continuous consumption and prevent muscle cramps by providing essential carbohydrates and minerals for quick body stabilization. These type beverages are absorbed significantly faster than water alone, allowing the body to replenish electrolytes and minerals needed for proper rehydration.

Diet

Another factor influential in coping with heat stress is a proper diet. The metabolic rate of an individual can add 10 to 100 times more heat to the body than radiation and convection combined. Employees who are exposed to heat should avoid eating heavy or fatty meals during working hours. A person can lose as much as six quarts of fluid daily through perspiration or urination. Entice employees to drink a balanced rotation of water and electrolyte replacement drinks throughout the day. Workers who drink more fluids during work are less likely to eat heavy meals due to a smaller appetite. However, liquids should not take place of proper eating habits. A well-balanced diet is key to the body’s ability to combat other illnesses besides heat stress.

An effective electrolyte replacement drink is the right solution. Electrolyte beverages such as Sqwincher are designed with specific functions for workers whose vocation causes a drastic reduction in the body fluids and electrolyte imbalance. Maintaining alertness can reduce accidents and productivity is increased through a balanced energy source from an effective electrolyte replacement solution.

Other IMPORTANT worker safety practices:

  • When possible, wear loose lightweight clothing
  • Wear hats and other clothing that will protect you from damaging UV exposure
  • Apply sunscreen to protect against skin burns
  • Use personal protective clothing and cooling devices designed to protect against heat and exposure
  • Take frequent breaks in cool, shaded areas
  • Make sure workers are acclimated workers to their working conditions. (OSHA recommends 6 days to gradually get used to extreme environments.

Know your employees and their habits. Be certain to keep them informed of the dangers associated with heat stress in their workplace. An acute awareness to the danger signs and a thoroughly managed safety program are key to safely maintaining heat stress.

The Sqwincher Corporation offers heat stress training and assessments and can assist you in determining the kind of program to best suit your needs.

Photo: Credit