With summer in full swing and temperatures rising, heat-related illnesses can pose a serious threat. In areas of the United States, the outside temperatures climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and depending upon the circumstances, production and warehouse areas without air conditioning can become equally hot and potentially dangerous. Heat exposure can lead to headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and even seizures or death.
PIA's Environmental, Health, and Safety team encourages employers and workers to learn the signs of heat-related illnesses and focus on prevention. You can get a sample heat illness prevention plan at http://osha.oregon.gov/OSHAPubs/pubform/heat-sample-program.pdf.
Penny Wolf-McCormick, Health Enforcement Manager for Oregon OSHA stated, "Prevention really comes down to taking several important precautions. They include regularly providing water, rest, and shade; gradually adapting workers to hot environments; and training employees to recognize signs of trouble and to speak up about them."
While not many employees in printing operations work outside, it remains important to take note of these tips for preventing a heat-related illness:
- If possible, perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
- Periodically check on those employees that are the most vulnerable.
- Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15 to 20 minutes).
- Wear light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing (such as cotton).
- Allow employees to take frequent short breaks in cooler areas of facility such as an air-conditioned break room to allow their body to cool down.
- Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
- Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses).
To help those suffering from heat exhaustion:
- Move them to a cool area. Do not leave them alone.
- Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
- Provide cool water to drink if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
- Try to cool them by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
- If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call 911 for emergency help.
To learn more about heat-related illnesses and prevention, please contact PIA's Environmental, Health, and Safety team at ehs [at] printing.org or call 412-259-1794.
You can calculate the heat index using the federal OSHA heat stress app for mobile phones: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html.
Visit https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/ for more information and resources about heat-related illnesses.