L&I: Heat wave means workplace safety

With excessively hot temperatures in the state this week, employers and workers should take precautions to prevent heat stress for anyone working outdoors, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) said Monday.

L&I said workers should drink plenty of water, even when not thirsty, take regular breaks, wear light clothing and adjust to the pace of the work, among other things. A worker who begins feeling ill should stop work immediately and take steps to cool down.

“We’ve seen the temperature jump significantly in just the past two days — from the mid-70s to 90 and even 100 degrees in some parts of the state — so workers may not be adapted to the hot weather,” said Steve Cant, L&I’s assistant director for safety and health. “Heat stress is a serious health issue and can quickly escalate to heat stroke, which can cause death. Everyone who works outdoors in hot weather needs to take precautions.”

To protect yourself and co-workers from heat stress while working outside in hot weather:

— Drink plenty of water, even when not thirsty. Sip small amounts often.

— Try to do the heaviest work during the cooler parts of the day.

— Adjusting to the heat takes time; start slower and work up to your normal pace.

— Wear light, loose-fitting, light-colored breathable clothing such as cotton, and a hat.

— Take regular breaks in the shade.

— Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine before or during work.

— Watch co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

— If you start feeling symptoms (lightheaded, headache, nausea, dizziness, etc.), stop what you are doing immediately and take steps to cool down. Tell a supervisor.

If you think someone is suffering heat stroke, get medical help immediately by calling 911. Some of the signs of heat stroke include no sweating; red or flushed, hot dry skin; rapid pulse; headache; blurred vision; dizziness or fainting; difficulty breathing; pinpoint pupils; unusual behavior; convulsions; and collapse.

L&I adopted an emergency rule this year that requires employers with outdoor workers to have a safety plan in place to protect workers from heat-related illness during hot weather. Additionally, other rules require employers to provide drinking water and first-aid training.

Training materials to help workers cope with heat are available by calling 1-800-574-2829 or at the L&I Web site at http://www.LNI.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/HeatStress .