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June 10, 2021

Talkin' bout a heat wave in manufacturing

Anthony Way

Each year, thousands of workers, including those in the manufacturing industry, experience serious illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration from overexertion and/or lack of preparedness. Exposure to environmental heat led to 37 work-related deaths and 2,830 non-fatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work, according to recent numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those doing work outdoors, working around equipment/machines or using bulky protective clothing. Some manufacturing employees might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions.

Understanding and Preventing Heat Illness

The body normally cools itself by sweating, but during hot weather and high humidity, sweating isn't enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions aren’t taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most severe form as it can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

How can the more common forms of heat illness be prevented? Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade. Encourage your employees to drink water often, take breaks and limit time in the sun or around hot equipment. Ensure your employees are following these additional steps to stay cool and safe:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing and a hat

  • Be conscious and prepared for warm conditions especially if performing strenuous tasks

  • Take breaks when possible and remove any protective gear during the break if in a safe place

  • Avoid overexertion during peak temperature hours

  • Drink plenty of water – at least 8 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes

  • Stay away from drinks that contain caffeine (coffee, tea or soda) as they can cause dehydration

Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite trainings and consistently remind workers of heat safety each morning. Additionally, worksite supervisors should review steps to take if someone is feeling ill from the heat.

For more information on heat illness and employee safety at your manufacturing facility, contact one of our MMA manufacturing experts today.