Safety Report – Heat Illness is a Real Concern

As fires in California and the Pacific Northwest rage on, even the most defiant anti-climate-changers are rethinking their stance. California gets hot! For those of us who work in extreme temperatures, we are more susceptible to heat-related stress and illness than most.

Recognizing the danger of extreme heat exposure in a new changing world, the Biden Administration and OSHA on September 20 released enhanced and expanded measures to protect workers on the job. Expect more inspections, increased compliance, and more emphasis on education and mitigation to the dangers of hot temperatures to be coming to your job site soon.

As your safety officer, I will continue to give reports on heat-related illness at our general meetings as well as posting articles and flyers on the safety page on our website, I was also recently interviewed by Dr. Teni Adewumi-Gunn, an environmental scientist with the NRDC, who has been conducting interviews in multiple industries in relation to heat illness. Adewumi-Gunn is gathering data on the subject, and she told me California has the strongest regulations when it comes to heat-related illness.

Here are a few things you should know to keep yourself safe.

  • When does shade need to be provided? At 80 degrees.
  • When do breaks need to be more frequent? At 95 degrees, although you are entitled to a break anytime you need to cool down.
  • Be sure to drink plenty of water, keep your head covered, and be aware when you are getting overheated.

In speaking to members and contractors on the job site about extreme heat, everyone agreed that while the dangers are still an issue, the situation has greatly improved in recent years, with contractors becoming more aware of their workers’ needs. They have been taking the time to mitigate the effects of heat exposure by adding ice in the field, cooling towels and head gear, as well as cooling trailers for extreme conditions and break time, showing their commitment to preventing the potentially lethal effects of extreme heat.

Another common preventative measure to heat-related illnesses is acclimation — taking the time to adjust to a hotter environment. Be aware that when you are coming from a cooler environment, either from another project or after returning to work after time off, try to readjust slowly to your new environment. No overtime your first week on the job.

Heat illness can wreak havoc on your body and mind if you don’t take the proper precautions. And once you sustain a heat-related illness, you will be more susceptible to it for the rest of your life.

For more questions about heat-related illnesses, or to report a contractor who is not following the guidelines, please reach out to me right away.

Safety first: It lasts a lifetime.

Mike Costigan
IBEW Local #11 Safety Director

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