Take a Break and Cool Down!

It’s hot!  Scorching Hot!

Last week, record high temperatures were recorded in Kuwait and Iraq, where temperatures reached 54 degrees Celsius and temperatures across much of the middle east approached 50 degrees Celsius.  This is not a local phenomenon, the first half of 2016 has blown away temperature records, capped off by a record hot June; and the monthly numbers from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration puts the planet on track to surpass 2015 as the hottest on record!

Folks, this is a serious issue.  In a future post I will put together my thoughts on global warming and climate change, but here I simply want to share a few pointers for keeping safe during these hot summer months.

I suspect we are all well aware that exposure to extreme heat conditions is hazardous to health and can lead to psychological distress, illnesses and death.  But, did you know that work capacity rapidly decreases as temperatures exceed 30 degrees Celsius?  Thus,  imagine what it is like to work when temperatures are well above those levels!

Of course, the best way to protect workers against extreme heat is to provide air-conditioning and/or altering work schedules to avoid the most extreme temperatures.  But, this is not always possible. 

When workers must be exposed to extreme heat, you need to be well aware of the dangers and provide approaches to make their work more bearable and safer:

  • Control heat stress – via engineering and work practice controls such as ventilation, limiting time, reducing metabolic demand, implement a buddy system, etc.
  • Training - on signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, PPE, etc.
  • Acclimatization – gradually introduce new workers to hot conditions
  • Hydration – provide cold, potable water and encourage workers to hydrate themselves
  • Rest Breaks – shorten work periods and provide cool place to rest

These recommendations of course only skim the surface of the topic.  For those interested in more details, there are many good web sites with information related to heat stress.  For those that are technically inclined, I suggest that you check out NIOSH’s Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Heat and Hot Environment.  This document is filled with 159 pages of information on the topic!

Thanks for reading.  Keep safe.  Be healthy.  Respect your environment.

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Next Week’s Blog Topic: Volatile Compounds in the Workplace

Photo Credits:  Desert image courtesy of Alejandro Basso at  www.freemimages.com

Randall D. Shaw, Ph.D.
Posted in Asia, HSE, Middle East, Worker Safety and tagged , .

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