In the heat of summer

By |  July 14, 2014

Mid-July temperatures are baking the usual hot spots in North America. And while a blast of polar air will cool things a bit in the Midwest early this week, the heat will return soon enough. With that in mind, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has issued a Hazard Alert on Heat Illness Prevention. MSHA says overexposure to heat can be a significant problem, especially for workers in jobs that require heavy physical labor in hot or humid environments. Heat stress occurs when a person’s internal body temperature is higher than 100º F, and it significantly reduces workers’ performance and can require medical attention. “The best solution to dehydration and heat illness,” MSHA says, “is prevention.”

Some of the risk factors MSHA cites for heat stress:
• Heavy and prolonged physical labor.
• Hot, humid weather.
• Direct sunlight.
• Work near hot equipment.

… and signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion:
• Hot and dry skin.
• Confusion or delirium.
• Loss of consciousness.

To prevent heat stress, MSHA suggests:
• Slow the pace of heavy physical labor or reschedule it for a cooler time (i.e., night, early morning).
• Take frequent breaks.
• Seek shade.
• Provide chilled potable water.
• Use air conditioning where possible.
• Provide training in recognizing risk factors and the signs and symptoms of heat stress.

If heat exhaustion is suspected, MSHA says, take the worker to a cool, shaded environment to rest. If the person is alert, provide water in small portions. Severe heat stress can lead to a heat stroke, which is a life-threatening emergency. If the person is is delirious, having seizures or is unconscious, call 911 and get medical attention immediately.

In addition to the heat, summer brings many other weather hazards. Be mindful of approaching storms, including lightning and the potential for tornadoes. Taking precautions at the aggregate site will help go a long way in keeping employees safe from excessive heat and other severe weather.

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About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at

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