Workers exposed to hot indoor environments and/or hot and humid conditions outdoors are at risk of heat- related illness and injuries. Individuals performing heavy work tasks and/or using bulky or non-breathable protective clothing and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are at greatest risk to heat exposure.
Even still, some workers may be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, or if they have certain health conditions. It’s important to prepare workers for their duties in hot environments.
Workers who are suddenly exposed to working in a hot environment face additional and generally avoidable hazards to their safety and health. New workers and those returning back to work after a prolonged absence are especially vulnerable. All workers should be medically fit for the exposure as well as for the types of PPE they may need to use (such as respirators).
It’s vital to educate workers about the dangers of heat and the best ways to minimize its affects, to acclimatize workers to the hot environment and if possible, gradually increase the workload. One simple solution to help mitigate the risk of heat-related injuries is to allow employees to take more frequent breaks and encourage the consumption of water as good hydration is a critical part of their body’s ability to manage exposure to hot environments.
Many industries such as steel and iron foundries, shipyards, manufacturing facilities, power plants, and commercial kitchens generate substantial heat and/or require the wearing of PPE year round and it is important to make the working environment as safe as possible. In such environments it is most likely that heat is not the only work related hazard that workers are subjected to on a daily basis.
Hazards such as noise, mold, dust, and toxic welding fumes and organic solvents can multiply the risk for injury when combined with excessive heat. When air quality is compromised in a work environment, it is necessary for workers to protect themselves with proper PPE such as respirators, safety glasses, full body suits, hearing protection and gloves which will help shield them from the harmful aspects of the job. This protective equipment does not allow the worker to regulate their body temperature normally and can greatly increase the occurrence of heat related injuries. It is crucial to take preventative measures in an industrial environment to maintain proper indoor air quality so workers are not exposed to several hazards requiring “layers” of protection.
Due to certain industrial processes a hot working environment is unavoidable however controlling your indoor air quality is not. Combining hot working conditions with poor air quality and other hazards puts workers at a greater risk of heat related injuries as well greatly reducing productivity.