Updated: May 29, 2019
If you have employees that work in hot environments, chances are you may not be doing as much as you can to make them more productive and safe. Hydration alone cannot prevent debilitating heat injuries.
According to Nike News, “25% of our body's total energy goes into moving muscle, while 75% is devoted to regulating body temperature." This results in a remarkable inability to exert energy (work!) without inciting a health risk.
Nike News goes on to offer, "Reducing core temperature before extended activity means more energy for the activity itself.” In other words: Pre-cool your workers to assure their safety, to assure your productivity.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “Every year, thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure, and some are fatally injured.” https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/index.html
Does Heat Impact Performance? YES!
“A performance study by NASA using telegraph key operators showed that in temperatures of 80 F, the operator will make five errors an hour and 19 mistakes after 3 hours. At 90 F, the operators made nine mistakes per hour and 27 after 3 hours. At 95 F, the mistakes went to 60 in 1 hour and 138 in 3 hours. Although errors made by telegraph key operators may not be critical, this same hot environment will produce a proportional amount of errors regardless of the task.” https://www.ehstoday.com/health/news/heat-stress-affects-performance-7791
Not only can overheating lead to work errors -- but it can also increase the chance of incurring additional workers compensation, healthcare and disability claims.
What Employers Should Know
We all regulate heat differently. One person's tolerance for heat is unlike another's tolerance.
Consider that one in three Americans has one or more chronic conditions. Most of those conditions (especially asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure) are exacerbated by heat and can make a person more vulnerable to heat injuries or worse.
Pay attention to the Heat Index, which combines both air temperature and relative humidity into a single value. The heat index reveals a more accurate "feels like" temperature, which is more accurate than temperature readings alone.
What Adds to Incidents of Heat Injuries?
Protective Clothing - the heavier and bulkier, the hotter the worker will become
Working in direct sunlight - can add up to 15º to the heat index
Low air circulation
Tenure - most heat-related injuries occur in employees not acclimated to the job
Basic Preventative Measures
Hydration: Make sure employees have adequate access to water
Frequent breaks: Less costly than an incident
Shade: Whenever possible, provide an escape from direct sun
Acclimate: Let new hires adapt to the demands of the job over time
Cooling Products - The Next Level of Safety & Performance
Isn’t Drinking More Water Enough? NO!
Godek, Bartolozzi, et al4, have shown that fluid intake alone does not reduce core body temperature. Action must be taken to allow the worker to cool in addition to taking fluid. The inner core temperature will continue to rise for up to 30 minutes after work is stopped, unless other means are used to cool the blood that has been pumped to the skin for cooling.
Cooling products that directly impact the temperature of the skin can have a positive impact on reducing body temperature. Consider purchasing cooling products (vests, headbands, gloves, etc) for your employees as an employee benefit, or at the very least provide the awareness of the types of products that can help them, and where to purchase. Cooling can be utilized in a number of ways:
Pre-Cooling before the job starts -- stall the point at which overheating would occur
Recovery Cooling between activity -- during breaks
Active Cooling -- when the job allows
In summary, overheated employees are a risk to your business from a productivity, liability and safety perspective. Take the necessary steps to monitor and control overheating. For more information about cooling products go to www.coolture.net.