Many of you might be the challenges of keeping safe from heat illness as temperatures soar. Heat is the leading cause of weather-related fatalities, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Americans suffer over 3,500 injuries and illnesses related to heat each year. While extreme heat has always posed a danger, increasing temperatures have posed even more significant risks, with 18 of the last 19 years ranking the hottest on record.
Excessive heat claimed an average of 143 lives per year in the U.S. from 1991 through 2020, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That’s higher than the average annual death tolls from flooding (85), tornadoes (69), hurricanes (46) and lightning (39) in that 30-year period.
For the first time, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a National Emphasis Program to protect millions of workers from heat illness and injuries. Through the program, OSHA will conduct heat-related workplace inspections before workers suffer completely preventable injuries, illnesses or, even worse, fatalities.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO HEAT ILLNESS
- Direct Sun Exposure
- Indoor Radiant Heat Sources
- Limited Air Movement
- Lack of Recent Exposure
- Not enough Fluids
- Physical Conditioning & Health Problems
- PPE & Clothing
- Physical Exertion
- Advanced Age
There are relatively simple precautions you can take to prevent heat illness. It’s important to educate yourself and take these preventive measures to avoid potential illness or even worse, heat-related death.
“Three out of four fatalities from heat illness happen during the first week of summer or heat exposure. The first step in prevention is acclimatization to heat by taking frequent breaks. .
Personal and protective clothing and equipment is something else to consider in heat illness prevention. For indoor work, loosely worn reflective clothing is recommended to deflect radiant heat, such as vests, aprons or jackets, . Cooling vests and water-cooled/dampened garments may be effective under high temperature and low humidity conditions.
PERSONAL RISK FACTORS
While self monitoring it is important, there are individual risk factors that come into play when considering heat illness. Awareness of these individual circumstances is critical.
Certain health conditions, such as pregnancy, medications and age, can all play a factor in elevated risk to heat exposure. Additionally, using illegal drugs and alcohol in hot work environments are particularly dangerous. You should consult a doctor or pharmacist about wither you are at increased risk for heat-related illness due to health conditions or medications.