Recently, an overheated landscape worker in Satellite Beach, Florida, jumped into a canal to cool off, had a seizure, and passed out. He had to be hospitalized. Another landscape worker in Edinburgh, Scotland, suffered second-degree burns to his shoulders after working overtime in the sun while wearing a sleeveless shirt. In September of last year, a crewman with a tree trimming service died from heatstroke, after working nine hours in direct sunlight.
In light of these incidents, we thought it might be time to review heat- and sun-safety guidelines, because heat can cause serious injuries to your workers; or worse, it could be lethal. The following recommendations are from OSHA and the Department of Labor and are specifically for outdoor workers.
It’s important to be able to spot the most serious heat-related ailment, heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature-regulating system fails and body temperature rises to critical levels (greater than 104°F). This is a medical emergency that may result in death.
The signs of heat stroke are confusion, loss of consciousness and, like the man who jumped in the canal, seizures. Workers experiencing heat stroke have a very high body temperature and may stop sweating.
If a worker shows signs of possible heat stroke, get medical help immediately and call 911. Until help arrives, move the worker to a shady, cool area and remove as much clothing as possible. Wet the worker with cool water and circulate the air to speed cooling. Place cold wet cloths, wet towels or ice all over the body, or soak the worker’s clothing with cold water.
To prevent heat stroke among your crew, establish a heat illness prevention program. Provide training about the hazards leading to heat stress, and make sure everyone knows how to spot heat-related illnesses.
H20 is critical. Make cool water easily available to workers; at least one pint of water per hour is needed, or about one cup every 15 minutes. Provide or ensure that fully shaded or air-conditioned areas are available for resting and cooling down.
Provide workers with protective equipment and clothing (such as water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, hats, ice-packet vests, wetted over-garments and heat-reflective aprons or suits).
New workers and those returning from a prolonged absence should be allowed to acclimatize to the heat. They should begin with 20 percent of the workload on the first day, increasing incrementally by no more than 20 percent on each subsequent day.