MOSH Issues Guidance On Heat Stress In Workplace

                               Baltimore, MD (CompNewsNetwork) - Daytime temperatures in the vicinity of 100 degrees present health hazards not only for people who work in outdoor settings, such as construction sites, but also indoor workplaces such as bakeries, pizza shops, laundry facilities and kitchens.

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) unit is advising employers to take appropriate precautions against heat stress and be knowledgeable about the signs of heat associated illnesses.

"Employers should ensure that workers are acclimatized to the level of heat in which they will be working, which may take several weeks of gradual exposure to the environmental heat and work levels associated with the job," said Ron DeJuliis, DLLR Commissioner of Labor and Industry. "Also, workers should be trained in the effects of heat and be able to recognize heat stress symptoms in themselves and fellow workers."

While high temperatures are certainly a key signal to the hazards of heat associated illnesses, other factors contribute equally to the body's response to the effects of a hot work area. These include the level of work being performed, radiant heat sources (e.g., boilers, ovens, sun light), humidity, air velocity and clothing. An individual's response to heat is also affected by age, weight, fitness, medical condition and acclimatization to the heat.

High humidity levels reduce sweat evaporation and the body's ability to rid itself of excess heat. When the body cannot rid itself of excess heat it will store it, resulting in increased core body temperature and heart rate. Increased sweating dehydrates the body and reduces essential electrolytes (often resulting in severe muscle cramps). Blood pressure tends to fall.

As the body continues to store heat, an individual may begin to lose concentration and the ability to focus on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often lose the desire to drink. Eventually, the body may lose its ability to sweat and the internal core temperature will continue to rise. This can result in heat stroke, an immediate medical emergency that may result in death if not addressed immediately.

What can employers and workers do to reduce the effects of heat strain on the body at this time of year?

  • Drink cool fluids. It is recommended that a worker consume about a cup of cool water (or acceptable fluid replacement drink) every 20 minutes. Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
  • Allow and take frequent breaks, preferably in cooler areas.
  • Employers should acclimatize workers to the level of heat in which they will be working. The process may take several weeks of gradual exposure.
  • Encourage workers to follow a healthy lifestyle, with adequate diet and electrolyte balance.

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