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Working or Volunteering on July 4th? Beat the Heat!

Author: ASPR/OPP Division of Policy and Strategic Planning
Published Date: 6/27/2017 6:33:00 PM
Category: National Health Security;

Over the next few days, EMS providers, fire fighters, Medical Reserve Corps, and many other community members will be supporting Independence Day celebrations. In planning for emergencies during mass gatherings, these workers and volunteers need to remember the “airplane mask rule” and ensure their own health and safety before helping others.

Typically people who work outdoors aren’t considered a medically vulnerable population, yet they are at high risk for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke, exhaustion, cramps or rashes. In fact, most occupational heat-related deaths occur in the first one to three days of working in the heat.

Many people - from first responders to volunteers - may not be accustomed to working outdoors in the extreme heat. They may have tasks requiring great physical exertion or they may use protective clothing and equipment that can trap heat and prevent cooling. Heat can result in dizziness, fogged-up safety glasses, or sweaty palms, increasing the risk of injury.

Finding relief also may be a challenge; water and shade may not be easy to access in certain settings. People working outdoors who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take certain medications are at an even greater risk of heat stress.

The natural adaptation to the heat takes time and managing that transition requires careful planning. CDC offers recommendations to stay ahead of potential heat-related illnesses and injuries, including:

  • Limit time in the heat and/or increase recovery time spent in a cool environment.
  • Increase the number of workers or volunteers per task.
  • Use special tools intended to minimize manual strain.
  • Implement a buddy system where workers observe each other for signs of heat intolerance.
  • Provide adequate amounts of cool, potable water near work areas.
  • Train supervisors and workers about heat stress.
  • Institute a heat alert program whenever the forecast indicates a heat wave is likely.

In addition, take a look at OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool, a mobile app created by OSHA and CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to help people working in the heat recognize heat-related illness signs and symptoms, such as disorientation, confusion, and slurred speech. Using the mobile app, outdoor workers and first responders have access to vital safety information right at their fingertips whenever and wherever they need it.

OSHA also has several tools and resources available for emergency management personnel and community volunteers working outside during the holiday or over the summer, such as advice on acclimatizing workers.

Emergency management agencies, first responder entities, or community organizations should provide training to workers and volunteers so they understand what heat stress is, how it can affect their health and safety, and how it can be prevented. CDC has resources and tools available to help managers guard against heat stress for their employees or volunteers.

The National Weather Service also has heat safety tips and resources workers can use, including simply keeping tracking of the heat index!

Use these recommendations and resources to condition yourself to stay safe and healthy in the heat this 4th of July and throughout the entire summer. Tending to your needs during periods of extreme heat will help protect your health and maintain effective job performance. When communities are healthier, they’re more resilient. For more information on national health security, visit www.phe.gov/nhss. ​


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