How to keep indoor workers safe from the heat

August 2, 2018


Portrait of young redhead woman working with computer laptop in office at summer during heatwave. The temperature is hot and the hair conditioner is broken. The girl sweats and feels exhausted

Right now most facilities managers are (rightfully) concerned about keeping their outdoor workers safe in the summer heat, but outdoor workers aren’t the only ones who need protection. Indoor workers can suffer from heat illnesses too, especially those working in such as places as iron and steel foundries, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), commercial kitchens, chemical plants, and many other environments. Here are some tips on keeping them safe:

 

Excessive heat can do more to the body than make a person uncomfortable. If precautions are not taken in time a person can suffer from heat rash, cramps, exhaustion, and even heat stroke.

 

Employers are duty-bound to keep their workers safe from harm, so workers should be monitored for signs of stress from heat. Employees should also be keeping an eye on each other and know the signs of heat stress and how to administer first aid.

 

If your employee(s) are exhibiting these symptoms, employee(s) should rest in a cool area and drink some water.

  • Sweating profusely
  • Tiredness
  • Skin rashes
  • Feeling thirsty

 

Supervisors should be alerted in the event that your employee(s) are showing any of these symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritability

 

If an employee does present symptoms of heat exhaustion, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following:

  • Have your worker sit or lie down in a cool, shady area
  • Give your worker plenty of water or other cool beverages to drink
  • Cool your worker with cold compresses/ice packs
  • Take your employee to clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation or treatment if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes.
  • Employee should not return to work that day

 

Call 911—if your employee(s) show any of these symptoms, as these are signs of heat stroke:

 

  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of coordination
  • Fainting
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Dry, red, hot skin

 

While waiting for EMS, OSHA recommends you do the following:

  • Place worker in shady, cool area
  • Loosen clothing, remove outer clothing
  • Fan air on worker; cold packs in armpits
  • Wet worker with cool water; apply ice packs, cool compresses, or ice if available
  • Provide fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible
  • Stay with worker until help arrives

 

OSHA offers more complete information here.

 

What are the main causes heat stress?

  • Lack of ventilation—In some situations, central air may not be an effective deterrent, so local exhaust ventilation systems should be used as well.
  • Lack of easy access to water—Make sure water bottles are fully stocked and that workers take frequent water breaks.
  • Fast pace of work and unrealistic production standards—again, your first duty is to keep your employees safe.

 

There is a comprehensive guide to keeping your indoor workers safe from heat stress available from California’s Worker Occupational Safety and Health Training and Education Program. This guide includes a checklist, best practices, and how to map out your facility to keep workers safe. You can download the guide here.

For more help with keeping your workers safe, contact Vanguard Resources.