As the calendar officially turns to summer, the N.C. Department of Labor is urging businesses and employees who work in hot and humid environments during the summer months to be cautious and know the signs of heat stress. The N.C. Department of Labor has partnered with The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and OSHA to promote OSHA’s original Heat Safety Tool, a downloadable app for cell phones.
“Nothing is more important to me than our worker’s safety regardless of the time of year, but summer can present additional problems for our outside workers and even some who work inside places such as factories,” Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry said. “Please be mindful of the heat and take adequate precautions to protect your workers. I encourage all employees to download the app to their phones so that they may properly monitor the heat throughout the summer.”
The updated app, available for both Android and iPhone, provides a clearer user interface, while still providing the same information to help keep workers safe when working outdoors in hot weather. Extreme heat causes more deaths than any other weather-related hazard; each year more than 65,000 people seek medical treatment for extreme heat exposure.
The department has recently developed an informational web page, linked below, and has also sent out a newsletter to over 11,000 recipients notifying them of upcoming special events related to heat prevention: http://www.nclabor.com/osha/etta/outreach/Heat_Stress.html.
The department began a heat stress initiative in 2007 and has continued to provide employers and workers with resources to use when temperatures approach dangerously high levels.
“Each year extreme conditions can cause any number of health-related illnesses for workers in North Carolina,” Occupational Safety and Health Director Kevin Beauregard said. “Those who come to North Carolina to work from other parts of the world can sometimes have difficulty adjusting to the humidity here in the South. It’s important that we continue to educate workers on what they can do to best combat extreme temperatures.”
When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heat-induced illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke, the most severe of these, can occur.
Heat cramps are usually the result of hard physical labor in a hot environment, often resulting from an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. Heat exhaustion is a result of the combination of excessive heat and dehydration. Untreated heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke is the most serious disorder associated with heat stress and can be deadly if not
treated properly. The department’s Occupational Safety and Health Division has developed additional materials to help employers and employees recognize and prevent heat-induced illnesses before the condition escalates to the more severe heat stroke. The OSH Division—which comprises Consultative Services; Education, Training and Technical Assistance; Agricultural Safety and Health; Compliance; and Planning, Statistics and Information Management—is working collectively to reach farmers, factory workers, construction workers and highway crews that are at an increased risk of exposure to heat-related illnesses.
The department would also like businesses across the state to share with us interesting ways they are beating extreme heat via its ‘Beat the Heat’ social media campaign. Employers can share their stories with the department through Facebook, or by sending a tweet to @NCDOL on Twitter.