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Worksite Heat Stress: What to Look for, What to Do and Products that Help

Once again, it’s a hotter-than-usual summer. While many of us can seek shelter from the intense heat, outdoor workers like those working in agriculture, construction, or utilities endure the brunt of it. These workers are not only constantly exposed to high temperatures for long hours but also often perform physically demanding work. It’s the type of environment that can lead to a higher risk of heat stress.

Heat stress creates a series of conditions where the body is under stress from overheating. Heat-related illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heat rash, and heat stroke.

It’s critical to educate yourself and your crew on the symptoms, preventative measures, and products to help minimize the dangers. Using a trusted heat index chart is the first step in calculating and managing your workers’ heat stress risk.

The National Weather Service provides a heat index chart to accurately measure how hot it feels when the effects of humidity are added to high temperatures.

Besides the NWS heat index chart, you can also download OSHA-NIOSH’s app that works on most smartphones and gives you the current heat index, precautions, and recommendations. Worksite safety professionals can use the app to recognize when additional preventive options should be implemented quickly. For example, as the heat index increases, more water and rest breaks may become necessary.

Heat stress symptoms

Heat stress happens when the body is exposed to excess heat and reaches a point where the average body temperature is not attainable in response to the current weather.

Outdoor workers often overlook the signs of heat stress. It can start with a feeling of confusion or difficulty concentrating, then may progress to more severe heat stroke symptoms, like fainting or collapsing. The type of health effects that can occur are:

Heat Exhaustion signs and symptoms include headache, nausea, vertigo, weakness, thirst, and giddiness. Fortunately, this condition responds readily to prompt treatment.

Heat Cramps are painful, involuntary muscle spasms that appear to be from a lack of water replenishment caused by excessive sweating and an electrolyte imbalance.

Heat Rashes occur as red bumps that create a prickling sensation, usually in areas where the clothing is restrictive. Those bumps may become infected if they are not treated.

Heat Fatigue signs include an unusual impairment in work performance. There is no treatment for heat fatigue except removing heat stress before a more serious heat-related condition develops.

Workplace heat stress prevention

OSHA recommends the following administrative or work practice controls to prevent and manage heat stress.

Acclimatize workers by exposing them to work in a hot environment for more extended periods. NIOSH suggests that workers with previous experience with high heat levels are high enough to produce heat stress may acclimatize with a regimen of 50% exposure on day one, 60% on day two, 80% on day three, and 100% on day four. For new workers, it should be 20% on day one, with a 20% increase each additional day.

Replace Fluids by providing cool (50°-60°F) water or any cool liquid (except alcoholic beverages) to workers and encourage them to drink small amounts frequently, e.g., one cup every 20 minutes. Ample supplies of fluids should be available in the work area.

Reduce the physical demands by minimizing physically exerting tasks such as heavy lifting, digging, climbing, etc. Spread work out over more individuals, use relief workers or assign extra workers. Provide external pacing to minimize overexertion.

Provide recovery areas such as air-conditioned enclosures, rooms, and intermittent rest periods with water breaks.

Reschedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day, and routine maintenance and repair work in hot areas should be scheduled for the year’s cooler seasons.

Monitor workers at risk of heat stress, such as those wearing semi-permeable or impermeable clothing when the temperature exceeds 70°F while working at high metabolic loads (greater than 500 kcal/hour).

Furthermore, OSHA suggests wearing lightweight clothing for better ventilation and less strain on an individual’s body. Reflective clothing can also help cool workers by reducing the radiant heat reaching their bodies. Other cooling products like wetted clothing and water-cooled garments are also effective in bringing temperatures down.

Heat stress products

Liberty Safety’s line of cooling products provides the cooling relief you are looking for in a variety of ways. Each garment can help your workers maintain a healthy body temperature when used during their workday.

HiVizGard™ Full Brim Neck Shade

Because the sun cannot always be avoided, managing your exposure to it is made a lot easier when you can shield your face and neck area. The HiVizGard™ Full Brim with Neck Shade will keep you covered while you work outside.

The hi-vis material of this cooling product provides great visibility and fits on most outside cap-style and full-brim hard hats. It can also be folded into a pouch which makes it portable and convenient. It comes in several fluorescent colors to enhance outdoor worker visibility.

DuraWear™ Cooling Towel

When it is extra hot outside, it feels good to be able to reach for a towel that will not only mop the sweat from your brow but also bring your temperature down. The DuraWear™ Cooling Towel is made to do just that. It is designed with an advanced Poly Vinyl Alcohol (PVA) material that is also antimicrobial-treated to prevent mold build-up.

You can activate the cooling effect by soaking it in water for 2 to 3 minutes, wringing out excess water, and wrapping it around your head or neck for an instant feeling of refreshment. Some workers find it effective to wipe it on the pulse points of their body as well.

HiVizGard™ Evaporative Cooling Safety Vest

Like our other cooling products, you can easily activate the cooling relief of this Class 2 certified antimicrobial safety vest by soaking it in cold water for 2-5 minutes. Then just gently wring it out, and it is ready to wear.

Even when the lightweight quilted nylon material is wet, it was designed to keep you dry. By using an evaporative cooling process, the chance of heat exhaustion and heat-related fatigue is greatly reduced.

DuraWear™ Cooling Bandana

Attack the summer heat with a bandana that holds its cool. Soak the DuraWear™ Cooling Bandana in water and use it as an evaporative cooler. Made of polyvinyl alcohol material, it is quickly activated and can cool you down when you need it most.

This universal-sized bandana can be tied around the neck or worn like a headband, and it is machine washable too. When properly maintained, you can use it over and over again.

Stay safe from heat stress

By using the right cooling gear and also putting into practice practical worksite protocols, you can provide relief to your outdoor workers throughout the hot summer season.

Visit the National Emphasis Program on Outdoor and Indoor Heat Hazards (NEP), a website recently established by OSHA, for more information and reminders on the risks of heat stress and how to help workers avoid it.

And if you’d like to learn more about the products mentioned in this post along with all your summertime PPE options, give us a call at 800-327-8333 or check them out for yourself on our website.

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Why Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Is Important for Outdoor Workers

Safety is a major concern for outdoor workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS), 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2018, unchanged from 2017. These accidents occur due to a lack of following safety guidelines. A large portion of these accidents resulted from a lack of required personal protective equipment (PPE) for the related tasks at hand.

BLS indicates that heat stress caused about 2,830 nonfatal occupational illnesses and about 37 work-related deaths. From the summer months of June through September 2015; 33 of the 37 fatal work injuries were caused by exposure to environmental heat. In 2015 alone, Texas and California had the highest number of nonfatal injuries and illnesses with days away from work. Kansas and South Carolina had the highest rates of nonfatal injuries and illnesses from environmental heat.

Workers exposed to cold temperatures are at risk of cold stress. Without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), cold stress can lead to serious injury. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports cold stress can even be fatal so being aware of the risks and preparing ahead of time is critical to keeping workers safe on the job in cold weather conditions. According to the BLS, in 2017, there were over 20,000 occupational injuries related to ice, sleet, and snow, 14 percent (2,890 cases) of which occurred in New York State.

The purpose of PPE is to ensure that workers, especially those who work in an outdoor environment or places with a high risk of injury, are protected. When actively engaged in work, the symptoms of these conditions may be overlooked. Workers should stay vigilant for the signs of each condition for themselves as well as any others working with them. If any of these symptoms are experienced or observed, it is critical they stop what they are doing and seek the appropriate treatment. Wearing the appropriate PPE in an outdoor environment can reduce heat or cold stress, worker visibility, and other physical related hazards.

OSHA PPE Standards for Outside Workers

OSHA provides a comprehensive framework to ensure that outside workers are well protected against occupational hazards. Employers are required to assess hazard levels in the work environment and evaluate workers’ possible risk exposure. They are also expected to implement safety measures at work and ensure that workers make use of the necessary PPE.

For many employers, the major challenge with complying with OSHA standards is conducting a job hazard analysis. As difficult as this may seem, it is essential in determining the safety precautions to be put in place. To avoid liability for any damage done to outside workers while carrying out a task, employers are expected to be aware of OSHA’s standards. These standards ensure workers are protected and reduce the possible risk in a work environment to a minimum.

Hand Protection for Outside Working Environments

Many outdoor workers mainly expose their hands to various elements that can be hazardous. Hand injuries account for more than 23% of reported workplace injuries, according to the BLS. The facts are 70% of these workplace accident victims were not wearing hand gloves. The other 30% were not wearing the proper gloves to fit the specific application. Although hand injuries are usually not fatal, their cost in terms of treatment and lost man-hours are high and more importantly, can be prevented. According to OSHA, in the US, an injured worker could spend an average of 14 days away from work.

According to the BLS, there were over 143,000 workplace accidents in 2015. Most of these cases would not have occurred if these workers just wore proper hand protection in their workplaces. That is why it is important to continually raise the bar on what it means to value safety. OSHA regulations have also helped direct the most ideal hand protection per application.

Are you looking for hand protection solutions for outside workers?

Equip yourself with the LGS Hand Protection line up!

Gray Polyurethane Palm Coated A4926

A4926 PU coated gloves with ANSI A4 cut level

These 13-gauge high-quality polyurethane palm coated gloves are made with superior comfort without compromising the cut rating. It has been constructed to be durable and ergonomically knitted to prevent hand fatigue. Find out more, click here.

DAYBREAKER XSCEPTER THERMAL LINED IMPACT GLOVES 0928 Premium Cotton Cord Impact Gloves with ARMOTEX® thumb crotch

XScepter™ premium cotton cord impact gloves are well constructed for oil absorption. With TPR impact protection at the back of the hand, fingers, and fingertips. Double-stitched neoprene cuff for extra durability with the pull tab. For more information about this impact gloves, click here.

P GRIP POLYURETHANE PALM COATED

SP4638BK PU-Coated Gloves with a polyester shell

These precision work gloves are made with a 13-gauge and polyurethane palm-coated gloves are perfect for general-purpose applications. It is designed with maximum breathability and high dexterity that makes it extremely comfortable for outside workers. For more information about this product, click here.

DAYBREAKER STRIKER X IMPACT GLOVES0950 Premium Cold Weather Impact Gloves with 3M® Thinsulate® lining

Daybreaker® Striker X™ Impact Gloves is a premium synthetic leather cold-weather impact gloves. It is constructed of 3M® Thinsulate® and Raotex™ waterproof lining, double-stitched neoprene cuff for extra durability with pull tab. TPR at the backhand, fingers, and fingertips, to improve the impact absorption. For more information about these impact gloves, click here.

Clothing Apparel for Outside Working Environments

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reportThe most common event associated with fatal occupational injuries incurred at a road construction site was worker struck by vehicle, mobile equipment. Of the 639 total fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites during the 2003–07period, 305 were due to a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment.”

The BLS article further reports that more workers are struck and killed by construction equipment (38 percent) than by cars, vans, and tractor-trailers (33 percent). As such, the work zone “runovers” and “backovers” are clearly the greatest hazard to roadway construction workers and, by far, the leading cause of death. High-visibility safety apparel is clothing that can improve worker’s visibility. This includes head to toe safety gear in hi-visibility colors, and under OSHA hi-visibility standards.

Other stresses in outside working environments include cold stress and heat stress. Cold stress occurs when workers are exposed to cold working temperatures. Without the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), cold stress can lead to serious injuries. OSHA reports cold stress can even be fatal, awareness of the risks, and preparing ahead of time is critical to keeping workers safe on the job. Heat stress occurs when there is an exposure to extreme heat or high temperature working environments, and hyperthermia occurs. OSHA has provided some insights that can be helpful to workplace settings; which include: PPE cooling products, shades, canopies, and other mediums that can be used to prevent contact with direct sunlight or extreme exposures to heat.

Are you looking for clothing apparel for outside workers? 

Check out LGS competitive hi-vis apparel and bump caps.

CLASS 2 MOISTURE WICKING T SHIRTC16600G Class 2 Moisture Wicking T-Shirts, available in short or long sleeve

HiVizGard™ moisture-wicking T-shirts are made of a 100% wicking polyester. With two-inch-wide silver retroreflective stripes and an upper outside chest pocket secures small items while working. For more information about this protective clothing, click here.

DURASHELL BASEBALL BUMP CAP

1410 Baseball Bump Caps, available in assorted colors

Durashell™ all-in-one baseball bump cap is a working cap that is best for outside workers. With an inner foam cushion for extended wear and air holes on both sides for ventilation. This one-size-fits-all cap is not ANSI-rated and not suitable for applications that require safety standards for industrial head protection. For more information about this protective cap, click here.

No doubt, working in outside environments comes with higher exposure risks. With the right PPE, employers can ensure the worker’s safety. Depending on the circumstances and potential hazards work environment, Liberty Glove & Safety offers a complete PPE product line.

For the full lineup of head to toe personal protective equipment for outdoor workers visit our website here.

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