There are many different types of insurance available to construction equipment dealers and their customers that protect you from the financial consequences of machinery breakdown and other business misfortune. But sometimes insurance comes in the form of taking practical action. That’s certainly the case when it comes to heat safety.
Hopefully you’re already aware of – and using – the Heat Safety Tool app created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. This handy phone app is available in English and Spanish for both Android and iOS mobile devices, but OSHA has just updated the iOS version. Among other things, it now includes full-screen color alerts for all heat conditions.
Heat can kill. But heat-related illness is preventable.
Obviously, outdoor workers can become overheated when the weather is hot and humid. But people doing strenuous physical labor also generate internal heat. Combine the two, and conditions are more dangerous. Wearing heavy protective clothing or impermeable suits that cause heat build-up and restrict sweating exacerbate the situation.
If your body cannot cool itself sufficiently, the excess heat can cause a progression of symptoms that, if ignored, can lead to heat stroke and death.
Many people aren’t aware that the heat index is a far better indicator of potential problems than simply looking at the temperature. Heat index takes into consideration both temperature and humidity, which can also be debilitating because sweat doesn’t evaporate as well, hampering the body’s natural cooling ability. Heat index values rise by 15o if you’re working in full sunlight.
The Heat Safety Tool does two things.
The app is designed to help employers and workers who toil in the hot sun and humidity recognize and prevent heat-related illness. Aimed at construction workers, landscapers, road and utility crews, oil and gas field workers and roofers, the app puts heat safety tips and a heat index calculator right at your fingertips while on the job.
The heat index calculator identifies risk level for outdoor workers. You can click to see how to protect yourself, based on the risk level – tips such as:
- Drinking water every 15 minutes, whether or not you feel thirsty. (Thirst is actually a warning sign that your body is becoming dehydrated.)
- Scheduling rest breaks in the shade or air conditioned areas.
- Adjusting work operations
- Knowing the signs of heat illness and keeping an eye on each other.
- Knowing what to do in an emergency.
Over time, our bodies build up some tolerance to heat and humidity. So risk increases for workers who are new on the job or who have been away for several days on vacation, because their bodies aren’t well-acclimated to the heat. If there is a sudden heat wave, everyone is at greater risk.
Employers are responsible for safe working conditions.
You can’t control the weather, but OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool app helps employers, supervisors and site crews work together to know the specific risk on that day at that job and then take smart precautions. Every employer should already have in place a heat illness prevention program that includes:
- Providing workers with water, rest breaks and shade.
- Adjust operations as necessary, by gradually increasing workloads.
- Scheduling more frequent breaks for those still building heat tolerance.
- Changing work schedules.
- Providing ongoing training about the dangers of heat and signs of illness.
Putting the Heat Safety Tool App in the hands of on-site workers can distinctly improve outcomes.
OSHA started their Heat Illness Prevention Campaign back in 2011 to spread the word that heat-related illness is both deadly and preventable. The program provides educational resources, including the Heat Safety Tool App. OSHA also partners with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which also uses their Excessive Heat Watch, Warning and Advisory notifications to provide pertinent worker safety information.