Staying Cool in the Summertime

After a long, harsh Wisconsin winter, I was more than ready for the summer sun to start heating up the place. And heat up it did. We went right from cold blustery weather to highs in the 80s — all in the span of a week.

Just in time for the summer heat, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched its annual Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers — perfect for asphalt contractors.

OSHA’s campaign aims to raise awareness and educate workers and employers about the dangers of working in hot weather and provide resources and guidance to address these hazards.

Thousands of employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses. Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating.

Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat exhaustion and then heat stroke if simple preventative measures are not followed. Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have not built up a tolerance to heat (acclimatization), and it is especially dangerous for new and temporary workers.

“Acclimatization is a physical change that the body undergoes to build tolerance to heat, and it is a critical part of preventing heat illnesses and fatalities,” says Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

In preparation for the summer season, OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials and a curriculum to be used for workplace training; both are available in English and Spanish. You can provide additional information and resources on heat illness — including how to prevent it and what to do in case of an emergency — for workers and employers: osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.

One last helpful tool: OSHA also has released a free app for mobile devices that enables workers and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their jobsites. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, as well as reminders about protective measures that should be taken at that risk level. Available for Android-based platforms and the iPhone, the app can be downloaded by visiting: osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.

Stay cool out there!

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