How to Recognize Heat Illnesses

As the summer progresses, employers need to remember how dangerous hot and humid temperatures can be. Working outside in 90-degree weather without proper protection can cause discomfort, heat stress, or even deadly heatstroke.

Symptoms of heat stress range widely:

  • Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. In high humidity, the sweat does not evaporate quickly from your skin’s surface. The clothing rubs will rub against the wet skin, causing irritation that can result in a rash.
  • Heat cramps are involuntary muscle spasms within the large muscles of your body. These typically occur in the thigh, core, and arm muscles.
  • Heat syncope is a fainting or dizziness episode that can occur due to dehydration or lack of acclimation.
  • Heat exhaustion is the body’s response t loss of water and salt, usually due to excessive sweating. Symptoms include heavy sweating; extreme weakness or fatigue; dizziness; clammy, moist skin; muscle cramps; elevated temperature, and fast, shallow breathing.
  • Heatstroke is a medical emergency. As the body temperature rises, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down and control its temperature. Beware! This severe reaction can happen quickly – the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees within ten to fifteen minutes! Without emergency treatment, heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability. Symptoms of heatstroke include hot, dry skin; profuse sweating; hallucinations; throbbing headache; high body temperature; confusion or dizziness; and slurred speech.

If you notice that you’re starting to experience any of these symptoms, the first thing you need to do is take a break. Move to a cool, shaded area and drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids. If it’s possible, take a cool shower or dip an article of clothing in cold water and place it on your body. If you are suffering from heat rash, DO NOT apply wet clothing. Instead, dry off and remain in a cool area until the sweating ceases. Resume work only after your body has cooled to a normal temperature.

Employers need to keep a close eye on workers – especially in the heat. When employees are subjected to conditions that could induce heat stress, employers need a successful heat stress program in place. OSHA has many resources to help create and develop heat illness prevention plans, but an Emilcott favorite is the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App.

The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App is a great resource to help employers and employees plan outdoor activities based on the heat. It can be downloaded onto any smart device and features:
• Area-specific heat indexes and associated risk levels
• Precautionary recommendations
• Hourly forecasts
• And more!

Emilcott’s team of professionals includes skilled Health and Safety Officers with experience in construction and hazardous waste sites. If you would like your current program evaluated or need help preparing your workforce for possible heat hazards, please reach out to or call us at 973-538-1110.

Portable Space Heater Safety in the Workplace

There are no federal workplace safety rules that prohibit portable electric space heaters in the workplace and statistics regarding commercial property damage caused by space heaters are not readily available. However, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters—resulting in more than 300 deaths. In addition, an estimated 6,000 people every year receive emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.

So, as the cold weather sets in, employers may be considering if they should permit portable space heaters or actually discourage their use—even outright ban them. However, some work areas can just be cold. This is a frequent problem with older buildings or those areas near entries or doors.  Adding to the challenge, there are many employees with medical conditions that require extra warmth above what is normally considered comfortable and a space heater can fulfill that accommodation without heating up everyone else’s workspace.

The good news—like so many other hazards, portable space heaters can be used safely if proper care and precautions are implemented. Any employer permitting the use of portable space heaters should highly consider a written policy to spell out exactly what is proper care and sufficient precautions. It could possibly prevent fires, injuries and even death.

Firstly, OSHA rules do require that electrical equipment must be used according to manufacturer specifications on the unit’s label and in the user manual. Therefore, only employer-purchased and issued space heaters with adequate safety features should be used.  Generally, regardless of the types of space heaters, the following applies:

  • Choose only thermostatically controlled heaters to avoid wasting energy or overheating
  • Most heaters come with a general sizing table, so select heaters of varying sizes to fit the size of the areas that needs heating
  • Position heaters on a level surface away from foot traffic
  • All space heaters must be kept away from any combustible material
  • Heaters should have a tip-over automatic shut down feature and a grounded three-pronged plug
  • Require that space heaters always be turned off when the area is not occupied—possibly unplugged at night
  • Plug heaters directly into a wall outlet and in plain sight
  • Remind employees that nothing should ever be placed on top of or touching the space heater
  • Heaters missing guards, control knobs, feet, frayed cords, or otherwise damaged must be taken out of service
  • Discontinue use of the heater if the heater causes the electrical circuit breaker to trip

It is not recommended that unvented combustion space heaters, such as those fueled by propane, natural gas, and kerosene, be used for heating inside areas. They introduce unwanted combustion products into the environment—including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and water vapor—and deplete air in the space. Check for local regulations banning unvented kerosene and natural gas heaters.

Office Safety is covered under the OSHA General Duty Clause. Good office “housekeeping” and safety policies can prevent injuries. If you have questions about office safety policy, Emilcott can help.

Fire Safety Prevention and Preparation

Regardless of the industry or type of business you conduct at your work facility, fire safety should always be a main concern. Too often we get wrapped up in our work and do not take the conscious steps needed to prevent work fires. The best way to ensure the safety of your staff is through fire prevention and preparation. Talk with your staff about the following precautions they can take to be aware of their surroundings in the facility to prevent future fire emergencies.

Planning for a Fire in the Workplace is Key!

Nobody ever expects an emergency or disaster to occur in their workplace. Yet the basic truth is that emergencies can strike even in the least expected places, such as work. When it comes to workplace fires, the best way to protect yourself, your workers and your business is to develop a well-thought-out emergency action plan as a guide for when instant action is essential.

Fire Safety In the Workplace

While October is generally recognized as Fire Prevention Month, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and most fire departments designate the second week of October as Fire Prevention Week.  This has roots dating date back to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 that killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 homeless. The purpose of this focused effort is simple—fire safety is serious business.  It deserves a month long effort to underscore the importance of fire safety in the home, in schools and at work.  

Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies

September is Emergency Preparedness Month. Considering that many of us spend a good portion of each day at our jobs, being prepared at work is essential. In addition to its long list of regulations, the OSHA website has all types of information, resources and tools available to employers to help prepare for emergencies and keep employees safe, should an emergency or disasters strike. Obviously, preparedness is key, since no one can predict a fire, earthquake, explosion, etc., so employers must establish and implement effective safety and health management systems that will prepare their workers.

Emergency Preparedness: Building the Right 72 Hour Kit for Your Family

by Charles Peruffo, CSP 

September is national preparedness month.  In the event of a disaster you and your family may be required to survive on your own for up to 72 hours until help arrives.  Anyone who has ever tried to buy flashlight batteries as a storm approaches knows it can be a nightmare.  A small amount of preparation can save a lot of stress in an already stressful time.  We have compiled a list of supplies and equipment for a basic 72 hr kit.

Home Protection against Brushfires

by Will Wenrich

Most New Jersey residents only think of a forest fire as something that exists on TV. The reality is, New Jersey’s pine barren forests are one of the most fire prone environments. With all eyes on fire activity in the West and Alaska, New Jersey has still experienced 728 fires with 1484.5 acres burned as of August 23rd, 2015. It is important for homeowners to understand the risk despite the perceived danger.