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In this episode, we have a very important conversation with Cam Mackey and Dan Glucksman about the reality and risk of heat stress. Unfortunately, the danger of extreme heat increases each year due to continuing effects of climate change. According to OSHA, workers suffer over 3,500 injuries and illnesses related to heat each year. Tune in to learn how organizations can implement effective strategies to prevent heat stress or illness from happening to their team members.
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Real leaders leave a legacy. They capture the hearts and minds of their teams. Their origin story puts the safety and well-being of their people first. Great companies, ubiquitously have safe yet productive operations. For those companies, safety is an investment, not a cost. For the C-suite, it is a real topic of daily focus. This is The Safety Guru with your host, Eric Michrowski, a globally recognized ops and safety guru, public speaker, and author. Are you ready to leave a safe legacy? Your legacy success story begins now.
Hi, and welcome to the safety guru. Today I am very excited to have with me Cam Mackey and Dan Glucksman, both from the international safety equipment association. Cam is the President and CEO. Dan is the Senior Director of Policy. The International Safety Equipment Association is the voice for safety equipment. And today we are coming to talk about a very important topic which is heat stress. So obviously we are getting into planning phases into the winter, but summer is running right around the corner, and we’ve had quite a hot summer. So, you can start out with Cam or Dan, sharing a little bit about what’s the size of the problem around heat stress so we can get a bit of a sense for some listeners in terms of actions that needed.
Yeah. Thanks, Eric. Dan and I appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast. We’re in what, mid-September? So, we can share a couple of stats on the summer that we are wrapping up. It is hot, right? So, this was the third hottest summer ever for the continental US. And even though we are in mid-September right now, guess what? The west coast is just coming off an insane heat wave. Sacramento hit 116 deg the other day, and over 1000 different heat records were broken. So just from purely what we are feeling as citizens, as workers, it is crazy hot out there. So those are some weather stats, Eric. So, what, there is a human cost of this heat, right? So, if you think about what the impact on our workers is, whether they are agricultural workers, construction workers, folks that need to be outside to keep us safe, to feed us, et cetera. Eleven workers are injured or died every single day when heat stress in the US. Now to put that in context, a single death or injury is unacceptable. But both those stats here, they are above the ten and 30-year highs. So, it’s getting hotter, and our workers are paying the price.
There is also an economic cost to this. Some studies have shown that the US. Could lose about $100 billion a year in productivity due to heat stress. And as well as I do look at a lot of the climate forecasts out there, as the world’s getting hotter, that number is going to go only higher. So, there is a human cost, there’s an economic cost and here at ISEA, we take it really seriously.
Yeah, I think this is a very important point to talk about. You also touched on Pacific Northwest. The other one that was in the news earlier this year was UK and Europe in general. We are talking about also regions that aren’t particularly used to heat stress and heat waves, unlike maybe southern teams on the Gulf or Arizona. So, tell me a little bit about what are some of the themes because you’ve got regions and people that are probably also not familiar with what should I do in those cases.
Yes, it’s a great point. As you mentioned, in the UK, you have these beautiful buildings, in some cases hundreds of years old. They were not built for this, right? They were built to retain heat, not have fresh air. So, there is an infrastructure issue, power grids aren’t built for it. But just as people, there is a learning curve, right, folks, where we are not used to working in these conditions. We are used to summers in the mid seventy s and so we will probably talk throughout our conversation today. There is a really big education curve to get over, right? So, it is letting workers, as people know, watch the signs of heat stress for themselves and for colleagues. And also, we’re really excited that OSHA that they’ve introduced a national emphasis program earlier this year specifically on heat stress. So, part of that is raising awareness of the severity of this issue for employers and for employees. So, we are really excited to see that that’s getting off the ground in the last few months.
Great. Let us talk a little bit about some of the symptoms to look out for. So, if I am thinking for myself, what should I be looking out for? If I am looking out for my peers, what are some of the things that I should keep an eye out for?
Yeah, there are a couple of things. Some workplaces actually have a buddy system where individuals are looking out for each other. Some of the things to be aware of are how often are you drinking or staying in a buddy system. How often is your partner drinking water? There is sort of heat cramps. So, if you or your partner are having spasms and say your arms or legs, it’s a sign of dehydration. Parenthetically, you see this on the playing field of sports over the summer, right? Players go down and they’re grabbing their skin or something like that and sometimes that’s a sign of heat cramp from dehydration. There’s heat exhaustion. It’s kind of funny, but one of the phases of heat stress goes from clammy skin to dry hot skin. So being aware of these phases of how your body is reacting to heat, the heat exhaustion, the skin is kind of clammy, but heat stroke, the skin is hot and dry. So, there are all kinds of things to be aware of. But really the preventions should really be top of mind such as drinking a lot of water, listening to your body and taking rests as needed and finding shade.
I know cam. One thing he says around the office is that heat stress is the one injury that’s 100% preventable. There’s really no reason anyone ought to be being injured by heat stress.
Yeah, Dan makes a great point, Eric, for some workers, right? They don’t have the luxury of working from home like others of us do. And so, this really is a preventative condition, even in some tough work environments. And so, we’re excited to partner with our member companies who make this great PPE to keep people safe, and to raise awareness that workers and employers do not have to accept that heat stress is just part of the job because it’s not sure.
So, let’s dive into some of the things an employer can do. I’m assuming one of them is training around signs, and symptoms, peer checks around it and making sure you’ve got good hydration. What are some of the other things that organizations can do to drive a difference?
Yes, I think the first thing is really educating yourself, and that’s at the employer level as well as the individual employee level. So, I think the first step in that education process is you need to find a trusted partner in safety, whether that’s your EHS professional, whether that someone if you’re an end user, if you’re a manufacturer, someone a distributor who really can help you assess your heat stress. But what you want to do is conduct a thorough job hazard analysis. And what that will do is help identify some of the risk areas, some of the potential problem areas on your work sites, and your locations for heat stress. So that’s something where we don’t recommend just googling heat stress and doing it yourself. So really find that trusted partner and safety to do that, and you’re having that kind of expertise, they can really provide them the best preventative measures. Right. The trick here is not, oh wow, I’m experiencing heat stress. How can we really triage this? The best remedy is to get ahead of the game.
So, you want to identify preventative measures. And so, some of the ones that we recommend are as powerful as our continuous use of PPE or personal protective equipment and cooling solutions. And so, this is anything from cooling towels and cooling garments, which if you haven’t used before, yes, the technology has been around for decades, but it’s pretty much as close to a textile miracle as I’ve ever seen. When you put this stuff in water for a minute or so and it just makes you feel cool and calm, it’s pretty fantastic. There are also cooling vests and then some pretty space-age technology called phase change, which again has been around for years. But companies are doing pretty incredible things to keep workers even in tough environments, safe. So, PPE is part of regular proactive, hydration is part of it. But yeah, the most important thing, Eric, is to bring in someone who knows what they’re looking for and develop a proactive heat stress prevention plan.
I would say that PPE for heat stress is a really high-tech, low-cost item to keep workers safe. Cam is right that these are harnessing the latest in fabric and fiber technologies. For example, some of them have an interwoven pattern of fibers that will draw water away even though they’re really thin. One layer draws water away from the body, and the other layer pushes it to the outer part of the fabric where it evaporates. And as Cam noted, there’s a range of options. For example, there are some hard hat shades that are designed to be highly visible for road construction workers, but also keep the sun off of your neck. There’s one company now that has a metal insert on the top of a hard hat to reflect the radiant heat from the sun. So, there are a lot of innovations out there to keep workers safe in the heat.
It’s really interesting. So, a combination of training so you have some awareness, making sure you’ve got the right hydration, and then really relooking at what kind of PPE you have, and making sure it’s readily available for anybody, particularly when the heat starts dialing up. Are there things that should be done just before a heatwave? You mentioned California had a very high heat wave just a couple of weeks before we’re recording this episode. What are some of the proactive steps when you know the heat is coming and it’s going to be increased that an organization could do to make sure there are no injuries?
Yeah, I think you’re right, Eric. Let’s be honest, the fact that we can predict the weather, I think it’s an amazing asset. We and citizens don’t appreciate it enough, but we can often look several days out and see when heat waves are coming. So again, this stuff is 100% preventable. So, some of the tactics that we recommend organizations employed before a significant heat event is number one, you got to track the weather. There’s no excuse. Ocean recommends the use, for example, the wet glow bulb temperature monitor, and that’s something you can use. Obviously, there are a lot of other ways to find out the current and predicted conditions. Second thing, make sure you have the correct PPE on hand, ready to go. You might even need more than you expect, but that’s something that needs to be done in advance. You also want to think about changes to how work is done. So, for example, modify the work-to-rest ratio. We’re humans, we can’t work just as hard in 100-degree temperatures as in 70 deg. So really being proactive about that and also making sure that you have a mechanism, whether it’s like a buddy system or wellness assessments, but you’re more continuously checking in with workers and allowing and encouraging them to check in on one another, all that’s critical.
Then you also have to have, frankly, a disaster emergency preparedness plan. So, this could be obviously, first aid teams having even a makeshift immersion tub available. So, all the prevention plus the tools and resources and equipment if an emergency.
Does occur, I think the buddy system you talked about I think is important. Somebody shared with me recently an incident where somebody was starting to feel signs of heat stress, but they were trying to work through it, and it was somebody else who caught it because we’ve got a desire sometimes to just fight through things and we may downplay what we’re experiencing. That strikes me as something that’s quite important, particularly if you’ve got small crews that are working more independently, making sure there’s always a buddy system in those heat periods.
Yeah, it’s great .1 of our members makes basically electrolyte beverages and products specifically for industrial workers. And I forget the exact number he shares with me, but it’s some shockingly high number of folks on the job site who are dehydrated, and they don’t even know about it. So, I think just to your point, Eric, we’re not maybe often the best judges of how we’re doing. So having that buddy system where this is not informal, this isn’t where a couple of workers decide to do this, but really where the employer is creating a culture where this is encouraged and mandated, but we’re looking out for one another, that’s key because we are not great judges of our own condition.
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Yeah, one thing you talked about as well is really making sure people are feeling empowered to stop work, to pause if there’s a need. The other thing is, from a hydration standpoint, everybody talks about drinking water or making sure you stay hydrated. But correct me if I’m wrong, it’s also something you’ve got to start many hours before you start work. It’s not enough to just start drinking water once you arrive at the job site and it’s getting hot, your body has to be hydrated hours before and stay hydrated.
Exactly. And just like when you get overheated, it’s not as simple as just throwing on a cooling towel. It’ll help. But you’re right, a lot of these measures need to be done correctly. That’s just the physiology of our bodies.
So definitely sounds like something organizations need to think about more particularly. As global warming is increasing temperatures around the world, there are more and more of these events in regions that aren’t used to it, but it’s also getting even warmer in regions that have been used to it in the past. So very many key themes I captured from our conversation are making sure people are well trained to recognize the signs in themselves and in their peers that people feel empowered to stop work if they feel something’s not right, but then also making sure you’ve got the right PP in place and really looking at overall what’s the PP you need. You talked about a lot of different items from clothing to reflect the heat, to cooling mechanisms, to staying hydrated with electrolytes. So, it sounds like a lot of different pieces of PPE should be considered for the summer months.
Yeah, it’s a great point. And the thing is just here in New Zealand, Eric, that’s a lot, right? Let’s be honest, that’s a lot for an employee to think about, for an employer to think about. This is again, why we recommend it so important. You need someone to help navigate through this, right? Someone who’s familiar with the different types of PPE products out there. For most of us, it’s not as simple as going online and thinking that you can educate yourself in a few minutes. So really find that trusted partner who can help you navigate this to build a holistic heat stress prevention program.
Sounds great. And where can they get such information? Would that be information that you can provide as part of the International Safety Equipment Association? Or is this somewhere else that they should go get some additional insights from?
Yeah, there are a few places. Number one, OSHA does a fantastic job with resources around heat stress. So, they have visual management posters, etc. You can have your work site and a lot of good educational materials. They have training guides; they even have an onsite consultation program if you were missing. I didn’t plug ISEA our website, Safetyequipment.org Heats trust. We’ve got a lot of good resources there and we actually have a training program called USSP or Qualified.
Professional Program where this is one of the areas they cover. But also, again, the people that you rely on in your company internally, whether it’s EHS professionals or the channel partners you’re buying cooling products from, they’re going to know about this. They’re going to be able to guide you towards equipment and PPE solutions. Number one will keep you safe from injury, and number two, when appropriate, will help prevent heat stress. Great.
And it sounds like a good time to start thinking about it. I know we’re getting to the winter months, so it’s easy to start forgetting about it. But to think about all these items, you can’t start doing it the day there’s a heat wave announcement coming in for the next day. That’s going to be too late, so it’s good to start thinking ahead. So, we’ve talked about lots of different topics around proactive measures. You’ve mentioned OSHA. Tell me about some of the changes that are coming from a legislative context. Dan is sure.
The House Education and Labor Committee just recently held a hearing in a committee vote on a bill sponsored by Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. When she was a state legislator, created the California Heat Stress Rule, and she brought that same kind of passion and legislation to Congress in DC. The Education Labor Committee took up her bill, recrafted it a little bit, and has told OSHA to create essentially a final rule within a twelve-month period on heat stress. So now that measure will go to the full House of Representatives and hopefully then also to the Senate and then to President Biden’s desk. Congress will need to act relatively fast, but so there’s some movement in Congress. Also, OSHA, as Cam mentioned, the National Emphasis Program, that’s a three-year program calling on a wide range of employers to focus on heat stress. That National Emphasis Program also focuses OSHA’s enforcement staff on heat stress and tells them that anytime they’re doing an inspection, also be mindful of how the employer is handling heat stress, making sure that there’s a heat stress plan and to some degree that workers are involved in implementing the heat stress plan.
So, there’s a lot going on legislatively and regulatory on heat stress prevention.
Perfect. So just another reason to focus on this and make sure you’ve got your game planned for the upcoming summer season, right? Kim Dan, thank you very much for coming on the show, sharing some very important information on a hazard that’s becoming more and more prevalent, and helping listeners think about strategies and approaches to make a difference around heat stress. Thank you.
Thanks for inviting us, Eric. It’s our pleasure.
Thank you for listening to the Safety Guru on C-suite Radio. Leave a legacy. Distinguish yourself from the path. Grow your success. Capture the hearts and minds of your teams. Elevate your safety. Like every successful athlete, top leaders continuously invest in their safety leadership with an expert coach to boost safety performance. Begin your journey at execsafetycoach.com. Come back in two weeks for the next episode with your host, Eric Michrowski. This podcast is powered by Propulo consulting.
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ABOUT THE GUEST
The voice of credibility for the safety equipment industry, ISEA is the association for safety equipment and technologies – equipment and systems that enable people to work in hazardous environments. For more than 85 years, ISEA has set the standard for personal protective technologies, supporting the interests of its member companies who are united in the goal of protecting the health and safety of people worldwide.
Cam Mackey is President and CEO of the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA). Mr. Mackey has led or collaborated on benchmark studies in areas like product management, competitive strategy, innovation, digital marketing, pricing, and channel strategy.
Daniel Glucksman is Senior Director for Policy at the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) where he leads the organization’s legislative and regulatory programs. Mr. Glucksman also contributes to ISEA’s standards development and member engagement programs.
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