Talkin' Bout a Heat Wave... in Waste Management
Keep Cool With These Tips For Waste Employees' Health
Each year, thousands of workers, including those in the recycling industry, experience serious illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and dehydration from overexertion and/or lack of preparedness. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 4,190 workers suffered from heat illness and 40 died from heat stroke and other related causes on the job.
Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those doing work outdoors or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some waste management specialists might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions.
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 heat. 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 in the shade when possible, and remove any protective gear
- Avoid overexertion during peak temperature hours
- Drink plenty of water – at least 8 ounces every 20 to 30 minutes
- Use sunscreen and re-apply throughout the day
- Stay away from drinks that contain caffeine (coffee, tea or soda) as they can dehydrate you
Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite trainings and consistently remind workers of heat and sun safety each morning. Additionally, recycling managers or worksite supervisors should review steps to take if you or someone else is feeling ill from the heat.
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