Preventing Occupational Heat Exposure
Most heat-related health problems can be prevented, or the risk of developing them can be reduced.
The best way to prevent heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler. A variety of engineering controls can reduce workers’ exposure to heat:
- Air conditioning (such as air-conditioned crane or construction equipment cabs, air conditioning in break rooms and change trailers).
- Increased general ventilation.
- Cooling fans.
- Local exhaust ventilation at points of high heat production or moisture (such as exhaust hoods).
- Reflective shields to redirect radiant heat.
- Insulation of hot surfaces (such as furnace walls).
- Elimination of steam leaks.
- Employers should take steps that help workers become acclimatized (gradually build up exposure to heat), especially workers who are new to working in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work.
- Workers must have adequate potable (safe for drinking) water close to the work area, and should drink small amounts frequently.
- Rather than being exposed to heat for extended periods of time, workers should, wherever possible, be permitted to distribute the workload evenly over the day and incorporate work/rest cycles.
- If possible, physical demands should be reduced during hot weather, or heavier work scheduled for cooler times of the day.
- Rotating job functions among workers can help minimize overexertion and heat exposure.