Did you know that those who work indoors could also face some of the same heat illness hazards as outdoor workers?
The temperature inside warehouses, factories, and boiler rooms can often exceed 80 degrees, which is the temperature Cal/OSHA’s heat illness standards start to come into effect. While high temperatures are more common in these locations, if you are in an office where the air conditioning has gone out on a hot day, temperatures can quickly climb into the 80’s.
In an office setting, like the one described above, you may only have a few options to handle the high heat. You can relocate your employees to a cooler part of the building, you can give them the option to work from home, or you can simply let them go home early.
In workplaces where high temperatures are common, you’ll want to find more permanent solutions to deal with excessive heat. The first step is to identify heat hazards, including:
- High air temperatures (80 degrees or above).
- High level of humidity (60 percent or higher).
- Poor air movement.
- Radiant heat sources (like ovens, furnaces).
- Physical labor.
- Not enough cool drinking water.
- Heavy personal protective equipment (PPE).
Once you identify these hazards, the next step is to seek engineering control measures to reduce the heat sources:
- Add air conditioning and/or cooling fans.
- Add or increase general ventilation.
- Add local exhaust ventilation to remove heat sources and byproducts.
- Insulate or shield hot equipment, pipes, and structures.
- Repair equipment that leaks heat or steam into the work environment.
- Offer cooling vests or scarves.
- Add tools and equipment that make the work easier and limit physical exertion (pallet jacks, lifting hoists, conveyors, etc.).
- Limit the time a worker spends on a specific task, and rotate work schedules to reduce worker exposure to heat sources.
- Encourage employees to remove personal protective equipment during breaks, as a cooling measure.
- Have plenty of cool drinking water available.
To properly address indoor heat hazards, you must include specific steps to deal with heat in your Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). This includes an emergency response plan specifying what steps to take if someone has a heat-related illness.
Talk with your employees and train them on how to identify symptoms of heat illness. Encourage them to drink plenty of water and report any symptoms that may arise on the job. Schedule frequent rest breaks, and designate a break area that is cooler than the working environment.
Indoor heat can be just as hazardous as outdoor heat. Proper preparation and an emergency response plan go a long way toward keeping the workers safe and productive.
For more information about heat illness prevention, please see the following resources:
The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.