Climate Change, Heat Stress, and Worker Safety
“The vast majority of the incidents that are caused by hotter temperature in our data appear to be completely or ostensibly unrelated things. So, falling off a ladder, being hit by a moving vehicle, getting your hand caught in a machine, that’s because heat affects cognitive function, too.”
– Jisung Park, Professor UCLA
With recent high-temperatures and record heatwaves across the globe, new studies have linked climate change and rising temperatures to increased injuries in both indoor and outdoor workplaces.
As heat waves have become more intense, regulations to mitigate the dangers haven’t kept up. A recent study found that 20% of the U.S. outdoor workers’ exposure to hazardous heat conditions could quadruple by 2065. While several states in the US have created their own sets of guidelines to deal with this, OSHA has no set of federal guidelines for heat safety at work.
The number of days per year where the heat index exceeds 100 degrees farenheit is expected to double by mid-century. Reports reveal that rising temperatures caused by climate change could put 20% of the U.S workforce at risk for occupational illnesses, reduced productivity, and increased injury risk.
With around 32 million workers working outside and the last seven years having been the hottest on record, the attention towards heat stress is clearly justified.
“It’s something people should have focused on a decade ago when it, you know, wasn’t that bad, but now there’s really an urgent need to do it, having a standard of what employers need to do in terms of acclimatization and hydration, and, you know, work-rest regimens, I think will really go a long way in making the workplace safer,”
– Deborah Berkowitz, National Employment Law Project
Technology to the Rescue
While we wait for regulatory bodies to establish formal rules and guidelines, organizations need to look at ways to make working conditions safer and focus on monitoring both environmental conditions and worker conditions when operating in high-heat locations. Implementing advanced solutions that leverage safety technologies such as IIoT, biometric monitoring, environmental monitoring, and wearable devices while simultaneously keeping the focus on workers and worker data can help improve safety to keep heat-related injuries and illnesses down.
Recently, we deployed Guardhat’s connected safety solutions for worker biometric monitoring and had an immediate impact, “Yesterday we were dealing with an extreme heat index here (102 F). At 12:22PM employee wearing band 008 alerted for 70% exertion for 10 minutes or greater, as well as core body temperature 102F for 5 minutes. Shift manager on unit received alert and we intervened successfully. That manager immediately removed him from the battery top and got him into the air conditioned lidperson shanty. His jacket was removed, and he was instructed to continue to hydrate orally. Employee was absolutely drenched in sweat. We sent this employee to our plant medical for precautionary evaluation where he was treated on a first aid basis. He was definitely showing signs of dehydration and trending in the wrong direction. Because of the Biotrac band/alert, we were able to intervene just in time.” – On site Safety Manager.
This is a perfect example of how human-centric, connected safety solutions can empower organizations and workforces with the proper tools, procedures, and training to save lives. By using intuitive, rugged ized devices married to sophisticated software, we can provide centralized safety control, better behavioral based safety, increased PPE compliance, and improved emergency response and incident prevention. These technologies can go even further, providing site-specific information, customized triggers and alerts for worker operations in hazardous (high-heat) zones, triggered alarms for workers displaying dangerous symptoms of heat-fatigue, or even set organization wide parameters for local and remote alarms based on configurable rules and policies such as detecting thermal and heat exposure, fall detection, proximity, and more.
While we wait for rules and guidelines around heat injuries to become more common globally, organizations can proactively look at technology solutions to improve their position on worker safety relative to heat stress and related injuries.
Guardhat is pioneering end-to-end connected worker safety solutions for industrial workers. We offer cutting-edge, wearable technology; a proprietary connected worker platform – unrivaled in its ability to ingest, manage and analyze unstructured data; easy to deploy monitoring and reporting software; and a growing ecosystem of partner integrations.
Guardhat enables companies to monitor worker location, health and work environment to shorten reaction time and help proactively solve safety challenges. We hold 15 patents in real time location systems, wearable solution design, and connected worker software. If you are interested in our connected safety solutions – including wearable biometric, proximity, and environmental monitoring devices – contact us to arrange a demo.