Heat Acclimatization: How to Work in the Heat
With the temperatures skyrocketing to mid-summer levels, employers need to know how to protect their workers from the effects of extreme heat. We all know that workers need to stay hydrated and take frequent breaks when it gets hot, but that’s not all. Employers need to limit the amount of time workers work in the heat until their body gets used to the higher temps. According to the OSHA website, almost half of heat-related deaths occur on a worker’s first day on the job, and over 70 percent of heat-related deaths occur during a worker’s first week.
Heat acclimatization needs to be done for new workers, workers returning after a vacation or leave, and for everyone when there is a sudden heat wave. Here’s what OSHA has to say about heat acclimatization and an employer’s duty to their workers:
- When a new worker starts, an employee returns from leave or vacation, or when there is a heat wave employers need to limit the amount of time workers are working in the heat. The rule is to start with 20 percent of a normal workday and increase by 20 percent each day until the worker is working a full day. For example, if a normal workday is eight hours, workers need to start at one hour and forty minutes of work on the first day. The next day they should work three hours and twenty minutes, etc., until they are working eight hours on the fifth day.
- Workers should take more frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids during the work period.
- Workers should perform the same work they will be or normally perform.
- All workers should be trained in the symptoms of heat-related illness and the importance of rest and water.
- Use the buddy system and don’t allow workers to work alone.
For more information about working in hot weather and heat acclimatization, see OSHA’s website.