We should all be familiar with the basic signs and symptoms of heat stress and heat related conditions by now in Florida, so let’s take a look at some cool gear (PPE), to help prevent these incidents before they happen. The golden rule of: Water/Rest/Shade never changes, but technology has evolved to help us.
Let’s start with WATER. Let’s consider it a primary piece of the PPE puzzle. Make sure to provide your workers access to cold water, via coolers on the trucks and equipment. Encourage workers to drink a liter of water over one hour, which is about one cup every fifteen minutes. Certain beverages, such as caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration. Consider a high-quality powder additive that will boost electrolytes. These can be bought in bulk. Look for an additive that contains the primary 3 electrolytes, (Sodium, Potassium, Chloride) This will help increase hydration, prevent aches and cramps, boost energy, muscle recovery and support cognition. One glass of electrolyte enhanced water can hydrate as effectively as 3 glasses of plain water.
REST and break periods in a cool dry area out of the immediate sun, should always be provided and encouraged. While this is not a physical PPE control measure, it is still a valuable 1/3 of the Water/Rest/ Shade equation.
Next is SHADE. For those workers who may be working in a fixed position outdoors for extended periods of time, consider some of the modern pop up, portable shade structures that are on the market. There is also new technology when it comes to clothing and gear. There are specially designed cooling towels, bandanas, head and face coverings, long and short sleeve shirts, with Moisture Wicking Polyester Mesh and Cooling Technology for temperature management, which use perspiration to keep you cool and dry. These fabrics moves moisture away from the skin and circulates it through the fabric keeping you cooler for a longer period. Do some research with what’s available with your supervisors and give your employees some educated and safe options.
https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/osha3154.pdf OSHA Quick Card, Protecting Workers From Heat Stress
https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/heat_stress.pdf OSHA Fact Sheet, Protecting Workers From The Effects of Heat
Steve Gailbreath, Loss Prevention Consultant, PRM