Trends in ... heat protection
‘Heat illness is 100% preventable’
Over the past decade, the “evolution of heat protection and workplace safety has moved forward leaps and bounds,” says Leon Marsh, founder and CEO of Miami-based Bodytrak. “It’s clear there are serious and growing concerns about [heat’s] impact on workers, their well-being and the business ramifications.
“A one-size-fits-all approach is no longer the most effective. Each employee will have a different physiological response to high temperatures whether they’re wearing PPE or not. Individuals who are yet to acclimatize, such as new recruits or people not used to the heat, are generally at higher risk of heat-related illnesses because their bodies are unaccustomed to such challenging environments. In addition, older workers are more vulnerable as thermoregulation becomes less effective as we age.”
What can safety professionals do to protect workers?
“Wearable technology has now become central to industrial workplace safety beyond heat protection,” Marsh said. “Measuring ambient temperatures (wet bulb globe temperature, or WBGT), which once led the charge in protecting workers from heat stress, is no longer the only approach.”
Added Adrianna Carrera, vertical specialist at Romeoville, IL-based Magid: “Any heat safety solution should be a part of a comprehensive heat safety program. Focusing only on one or two heat safety precautions will not be enough to keep your workers safe in a truly hot environment. For example, keeping workers hydrated is an important practice, but even hydrated people can still experience a heatstroke if their body is producing heat faster than it can shed it.”
According to Carrera, a heat safety program comprises eight elements: heat hygiene, hydration, heat acclimatization, environmental monitoring, physiological monitoring, body-cooling stations, emergency preparedness, and body-cooling personal protective equipment.
“The good news is that heat illness is 100% preventable, and creating a heat safety program isn’t especially complicated or expensive,” Carrera said. “Educating your team and providing the best tools and reminders can make heat illness a thing of the past in your workplace.”
Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association
Coming next month:
- Hand protection
- Spill containment/slip protection