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How to avoid heat stress for masked workers
30th Nov, 2021
Follow your heat stress prevention plan with a few new considerations for the pandemic
Our advice? Continue to follow a heat stress prevention plan, with a few new considerations.
“It’s important to plan for all the potential risks that workers face, Industrial Hygiene and Ventilation Specialist at Workplace Safety. “For most workplaces, heat stress and heat-related illnesses is a concern, especially with new requirements around personal protective equipment during the pandemic.”
Here are tips for keeping workers safe this summer.
1. Assess the risks
Whether employees are in the field, at a hot stove, or on a construction site, heat exposure could have a significant impact on their health and safety.
One way to evaluate the risk is by checking outside temperature. The human body’s response to heat, and takes into account air temperature, air movement, radiant heat and humidity.
Direct sunlight with limited access to shade
Exposure to indoor sources of radiant heat (like a stove or furnace)
Limited air circulation
Low fluid consumption
Heavy personal protective equipment (PPE)
Other considerations include:
Poor physical condition or health problems
Advanced age and the use of medications
Fogging of glasses associated with high heat environments
2. Face masks and heat stress
Current guidelines require many workers to wear masks to prevent transmission of COVID-19. While workers in some industries may be used to wearing masks in warm environments, it is new for others. Depending on the work environment, wearing a mask could increase breathing resistance and heat load, increasing the wearer’s risk of heat stress.
“Managing COVID-19 and heat stress prevention programs at the same time is a challenge. “Conduct a proper risk assessment and ensure policies and procedures are in place to keep employees safe.
3. Protect the worker
The most effective way to prevent heat-related injuries or illnesses is to minimize or eliminate the risk altogether. One way to do this is to change shift schedules or working times so that workers are not outside during the hottest time of day.
Hazard elimination is not always possible, however. When employees must be exposed to high temperatures or sources of heat, it’s important to provide them with the necessary resources, breaks, and PPE. Consider developing an acclimatization plan to help workers adapt to hot environments, including proper rehydration schedules. Also, ensure proper fitting and donning of mask to help prevent fogging of safety glasses.
According to the NCDC, if workers are in an environment where cloth face coverings may increase the risk of heat-related illness or cause safety concerns, consult with an occupational safety and health professional to identify the right face covering for the job.
If face coverings can’t be used, it’s important to use other measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19, including physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
4. Learn the symptoms
No matter how much you prepare, illness may still occur. Learning the signs and symptoms of different levels of heat stress could save a life.
This handout makes a side-by-side comparison of two common heat illnesses-heat stroke and heat exhaustion-and outlines the appropriate responses for each.
Keep in mind that some COVID-19 symptoms are similar to heat-related illness. If you or a worker are experiencing such symptoms, stop working and seek the appropriate medical care.