How to Avoid Heat Stress at Work

How to Avoid Heat Stress at Work

Heat stress occurs when our bodies heat up faster than they can cool down by sweating. Our bodies need to be between 36-38°.  It’s important to protect employees working in a hot environment because if you don’t, this may lead to serious injuries and heat disorders.

The main causes of heat stress can be divided into three categories: the environment, the work, and the worker. In the environment, radiant heat from direct or indirect sunlight, air temperature hotter than that of the skin, and high humidity are some factors that need to be considered. The work means that the harder a person is working, the more heat their body produces.  And for workers, the possible causes of heat stress are not getting enough water, lack of conditioning (if they are not used to regularly working in a hot environment), poor health (including obesity, age, and other medical conditions), and excess clothing or faulty personal protective equipment.

avoiding heat stress by drinking water

Image Source: Flickr

When there is a rise in body temperature, the body sweats, losing salts and fluids in the process. This can lead to dehydration which makes the body less able to cool down on its own. Excessive sweating, dizziness, and nausea are three of the warning signs of heat stress that workers should be mindful of. If not treated early, heat disorders such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke which can lead to cardiac arrest might occur and these have serious effects on the body.

There are a number of ways to control the risk of heat stress at work but eliminating the source of exposure is the best way to do so. Here are some examples of risk controls listed in order of effectiveness.

  1. Elimination or Substitution

Is it possible for the job to be done in a much cooler setting? If eliminating or substituting the hazard by choosing a safer place, process, or material is possible, then that would be the best option

  1. Engineering Controls

Changes can be made to alter facilities, equipment, and other processes in order to reduce the hazard. Consider asking the following questions: Is there any way the ventilation can be increased or the humidity be lessened? Can radiant heat be decreased by insulating hot surfaces?  Is there some sort of barrier that can be set up to shield the workers from heat?

  1. Administrative Controls

There can be changes made in work practices and policies that can limit the heat stress hazard. Updating awareness tools, posting more warning signs, providing water, cool-down rooms, and additional training can all contribute to the process

  1. Personal Protective Equipment

This may be the least effective but it still greatly helps when added to other controls. Personal protective equipment should be checked to make sure it is working properly.

For more tips on protecting your employees from heat stress at work, contact us here!

Working Safety Solutions

#200-4170 Still Creek Drive, Burnaby, B.C.