KINGMAN - With temperatures well above 100 for the rest of the week, and plenty of hot weather to look forward to through the rest of summer, representatives at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration want workers in Arizona to be aware of the risks of working in the heat and to prepare accordingly.
One of the tools OSHA is giving to people to use is their Heat Safety Tool app, available on Android and iOS for free.
"The application uses the national weather advisory or the local weather report. You click over, and it gives you the strategy for the day," said Jessie Atencio, assistant director for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
The application calculates the heat index: a formula that uses air temperature and relative humidity to determine what the temperature "feels like" to the average human being. Higher humidity combined with high temperatures will raise the heat index, for example.
"It's the concentration of the heat, whatever's being imposed on you. It's what your body feels like in direct sunlight while doing work. This is the risk, and this is what puts you in a danger zone," said Atencio.
The app will display the calculated heat index and give a minimal, low, moderate, or high risk assessment for the day. Users can then go into depth on what that risk assessment means and what precautions OSHA recommends for working during the day.
Recommendations are specific and cover topics like how much water to drink, providing shade for workers, timing breaks and the signs of a heat illness.
"The understanding here is, once you know you are out there working, preplanning with an app like this will help. Should we shift work? Should we provide more water? Should we provide more frequent breaks?" said Atencio.
Atencio also stressed that even short durations of working outside in the heat must be done with caution, and that the signs of heat illness and prevention recommendations should be taken into account by anyone who works outside.
The Heat Safety Tool can be found on the App Store or the Google Play Store for free.
Heat Illness Signs
OSHA outlines the risk factors for heat illness as:
Higher temperature and humidity, direct sun exposure, no breeze or wind.
Low liquid intake.
Heavy physical labor.
No recent exposure to hot workplaces.
That last point is a common problem in Arizona, especially for workers moving to the desert for the first time.
"You may get someone coming from a cooler area not used to working in a triple-digit area. The employer should work with the worker to build a tolerance and climatizing, building up their tolerance to the heat," said Atencio.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Headache, dizziness, or fainting.
Weakness and wet skin.
Irritability or confusion.
Thirst, nausea, or vomiting.
Heat exhaustion can quickly turn into heat stroke, where a victim may be confused, unable to think clearly, pass out, collapse, have seizures, or stop sweating altogether.
A worker who is not alert or seems confused may be suffering from heat stroke. Colleagues are advised to call 911 immediately and apply ice as soon as possible.
OSHA's Heat Safety Tool's primary function is to prevent heat illness altogether. OSHA recommends the following general actions for workers to help protect themselves and others while working in the heat:
Know the signs and symptoms of heat illness. Monitor yourself, and use a buddy system.
Drink plenty of fluids. Drink often and before you are thirsty. Drink water every 15 minutes.
Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine.
Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.