Heat illnesses are a serious concern for both on-shore and off-shore industrial sites, so it’s a force all operators will eventually face. Once employers develop a true appreciation of the threat to their workers, they need to develop and execute a comprehensive prevention plan to manage these risks.
There are many ways that heat can jeopardize worker health and the symptoms of heat exhaustion and other heat illnesses can become life-threatening very quickly. The confusion, lapses in awareness and temporary loss of motor control that accompany these conditions can endanger the lives of others and cause serious disruptions to the operation.
Planning for prevention is the best way to mitigate the risks of heat exposure. There are many ways to approach this kind of prevention plan, but a simple way is to break down measures into two groups: worker-oriented and employer-oriented practices.
Individual workers need to be properly equipped and trained to deal with the hazards presented by high heat. This is particularly important in operations located in warmer climate zones, like the Gulf of Mexico, where heat waves and high humidity are more likely.
All employees should receive basic training on how to recognize, prevent and treat heat exhaustion and common illnesses. They should be encouraged to look out for one another and know how to identify apparent symptoms, including changes to a person’s physical and mental state. Individuals can also be designated as shift safety officers and receive additional training and responsibilities to better protect the crew.
Use Safety Gear
Whenever possible, workers should wear lightweight protective equipment (PPE) to mitigate heat risks. The extra layers required to safely work around much of the machinery only increase heat exposure, so it’s important for employers to select breathable coveralls or uniforms whenever possible. Lighter alternatives to conventional gear aren’t always an option, so in these cases, operators should rotate crew members frequently to minimize the risk of exhaustion.
All employees should take designated and mandatory breaks as part of their daily schedule. These should be treated as essential and not something that can be skipped to catch up on shift work. Employees need to take their full breaks in cooled areas and keep themselves hydrated.
Employers have a legal obligation to provide their staff with safe working conditions, especially when work sites are outdoors and vulnerable to the elements. With a few simple site modifications, operators can ensure their staff has ample opportunities to escape from the heat and get help during emergencies.
Every work site should have air-conditioned spaces and cooling stations to help employees maintain a healthy body temperature throughout the day. An enclosed break space with air conditioning and fans is recommended when possible. Setting up a shaded tent and water misting station outside can also be a great way for employees to cool down quickly with little downtime.
Cold water should be readily available to workers throughout the shift. Each worker should be consuming a minimum of 1 pint of cold water per hour on hot days. Encourage workers to remind one another to stay hydrated and make sure water coolers are near the work site at all times.
Workplaces should also be outfitted with basic first aid and emergency relief equipment to help employees that develop symptoms of heat illness. This includes emergency hydration packs, a conditioned space with a bed or couch and access to contact emergency medical personnel.
Take Action Against Heat Today
As a provider of industrial health and safety services, Pharma-Safe is prepared to help operators assess, prevent and address heat illnesses in the workplace. Our full range of medical and safety solutions includes comprehensive personnel training, on-site industrial duty paramedics, HSE services and staffing, telemedicine and case management.
Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help move your project forward with confidence.