Take precautions when working outside in summer heat
Hot, humid weather puts people working outdoors at risk
By Joan Twigg
Occupational Health Nurse, Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center
Injury is particularly likely when workers are not adapted to warm weather. Employees new to outdoor jobs are generally most at risk for heat-related illnesses. In most investigated incidents, the worker involved had only been on the job for four or fewer days.
That's why it is important to gradually increase the workload and allow more frequent breaks to help new staffers -- as well as those returning to a job after time away -- build up a tolerance for hot conditions.
Federal law requires employers to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace including heat-related hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration website, www.osha.gov publications tab, contains information to help supervisors ensure safe summer conditions.
Workers performing strenuous activity, using heavy or nonbreathable protective clothing, or new to an outdoor job need additional precautions beyond those warranted by the heat index alone. Employees and their supervisors must know the risks and signs of potential heat injury.
Both air temperature and humidity affect how hot it feels. The heat index is a single value that takes both temperature and humidity into account. The higher the heat index, the hotter the weather feels because sweat will not readily evaporate and cool the skin.
On Fort Meade, call 301-677-8881 to obtain the latest heat index. Information provided includes the last measured heat category and specific recommendations regarding fluid intake and outdoor exercise.
If you suspect an individual may have an urgent heat-related injury, call 911 immediately. Kimbrough does not have the capability to provide emergency services.
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