Preventing Sickness & Injury from Occupational Heat Stress

Each year, on the last Friday in May, OSHA recognizes National Heat Stress Awareness Day. While May temperatures tend to be considerably fairer than those we see in August, there’s a reason OSHA designates a day in early summer to this critical topic.

50% to 70% of outdoor fatalities related to heat exposure each year happen in the first few days of working in a hot environment. Our bodies build tolerance, or acclimate, to heat over time. As we emerge from winter and spring that tolerance is at a minimum. While protecting your crew from heat and sun related injury and sickness is important all season, it’s especially important as their bodies go through the acclimation period.

occupational heat stress - man working in hot conditions wiping brow to cool himself

Heat Exhaustion vs. Heatstroke: What’s the Difference?

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are not the same thing. Heat exhaustion is marked by several symptoms including muscle cramping, weakness, nausea, weak pulse, excessive sweating, clammy skin, dizziness, headaches, and dark colored urine. If you or any team members experience any of the above symptoms while working outdoors or in extreme heat, it’s time to get out of the sun, rest, and rehydrate.

Heeding the warning of heat exhaustion is important because if not addressed, it can lead to heatstroke which is far more severe. Heatstroke occurs when the body reaches a temperature of 104 degrees or higher. Symptoms include hot and dry skin, racing heartbeat, agitation or confusion, and slurred speech. If not treated, it can even lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, or death.

Exertional heatstroke is typically the result of occupational heat stress. The condition can develop in a matter of hours when working outdoors or in non-air-conditioned facilities. It’s important to stay mindful of the risk and symptoms to avoid the worst-case scenarios.

Preventing Occupational Heat Stress

French Gerleman offers tools for minimizing the impact of heat on personnel health and safety . Let’s take a look at several popular and effective tools to make working in the heat a safer and more pleasant experience.

Hydration and Electrolytes

occupational heat stress - Sqwincher electrolytes concentrateA properly hydrated team will be best armed to combat the effects of occupational heat stress. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, hydration best practices are changing. Crews that traditionally provided water for their teams in large, shared water coolers are turning to bottled water to minimize the risk of cross contamination. We provide bottled water by the case or pallet to make hydrating your team as quick as a click or call to your nearest branch location.

Electrolytes are the minerals that your body uses to direct water to the areas in the most need. They also regulate and balance the amount of water in your body at any given time. French Gerleman offers a variety of products from Sqwincher to help your crew maintain electrolyte levels on the job.

Head Protection

Hard hats are critical to job site safety, but they do little to allow heat to escape from your head. A rise in brain temperature can be as damaging to judgement as drugs and alcohol. Keeping a cool head on the jobsite is a critical safety measure. French Gerleman offers a number of products designed to protect your head from the effects of heat, including evaporative cooling neck towels, cooling bandanas and hats, and disposable sweatbands that wick moisture and cool your skin.

occupational heat stress - evaporative cooling vestCooling Vests

When it comes to keeping cool, your first thought probably isn’t to add layers of clothing. But if the layer you’re adding is a cooling vest it could very well be your best decision. French Gerleman offers two types of cooling vests.

The evaporative cooling vest from Protective Industrial Products is a reusable lightweight cooling solution that can be activated in as little as a minute and provide 5 to 10 hours of cooling relief per activation. When used properly, it’s able to cool the body 15 to 20 degrees below the ambient temperature.

Protective Industrial Products also offers a more powerful, reusable cooling vest solution that features pockets for frozen or refrigerated cooling packs. Each gel pack offers a cooling sensation for up to three hours.

Anti-Fog Goggles

occupational heat stress - protective antifog eye protectionEye protection is critical in construction and industrial settings. But when your lenses fog up from a drastic change in air temperature, they can become a hazard. French Gerleman can help with protective anti-fog eyewear.

Anti-fog technology has come a long way in the past year with masks and goggles becoming standard PPE in a wide variety of industries. In the past, anti-fog was most commonly applied as a coating to the outer lens of the goggles. Today, it’s become far more common to have the anti-fog technology built right into the construction of the lens. This means a more reliable anti-fog lens with a longer lifespan.

Your Partners in Heat Stress Prevention

French Gerleman knows that the health and safety of your crew is your number one priority, so we carry safety products to help you comply with your heat stress safety standards. Contact your account manager or call your nearest branch location.

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