SafetyWatch: How to beat heat stress

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Safety vest (Photo: 3M)
Safety vest (Photo: 3M)
Safety vest (Photo: 3M)
To avoid heat stress, wear light personal protective equipment. (Photo: 3M)

Summer is here. A lot of us have been waiting all winter for this weather, but if you have to work in the heat and humidity, you may not share those same feelings.

Not only can it be uncomfortable, but it also can be downright dangerous if not taken seriously. That’s why it’s important for everyone in your crew to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress, especially among one another since you’re less likely to recognize the signs in yourself.

Some symptoms to watch for include confusion, headache, dizziness, excessive sweating, irritability and nausea. If you recognize these in a co-worker, remove him or her from the hot work environment immediately and get help.

To help prevent the onset of heat stress symptoms, keep your workers cool and well hydrated. Among other things, this means keeping water nearby and encouraging people to take frequent breaks, preferably out of direct sunlight. Another option is to adjust the work schedule to the cooler parts of the day.

Finally, if you wear safety products while working outside, choose products designed for comfort (and of course, make sure to choose appropriate personal protective equipment based on hazard assessments and Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations). For safety glasses, consider using a pair with an antifog coating and a gray lens for sunny conditions. If you wear a high-visibility vest, choose a mesh style for more breathability. For hearing protection, consider earplugs if earmuffs are too hot. If you wear a hard hat, perhaps a vented version will work.

It doesn’t necessarily require a complicated heat stress program to help provide relief for your workers. With some knowledge and preplanning, you can help your crew stay safe in the summer heat.

Jason Lunn is 3Ms senior application development engineer, and Rebecca L. Schumann is 3M’s industrial hygienist, personal safety division.

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