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EnvrioServe Team Member | Create a heat illness prevention plan

How to Create an Effective Heat Illness Prevention Plan

Each year, heat-related illnesses claim the lives of workers across the country and contribute to many other occupational injuries. To ensure you are preventing occupational heat stress and that your team is protected, we recommend a Heat Illness Prevention Plan be put into place.

What is a Heat Illness Prevention Plan?

A Heat Illness Prevention Plan is a written commitment for how a company will prevent incidents and protect their employees from heat stress on the job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are responsible for providing a workplace free of known safety hazards—heat being one of them. Methods for working in hot conditions and controls used to mitigate the hazard should be addressed in a heat-specific plan or included in your Injury and Illness Prevention Plan.

Does your company have a plan put in place to minimize worker exposure to heat? Consider these steps for establishing an effective Heat Illness Prevention Plan.

1. Evaluate the Need for a Heat Illness Prevention Plan

When creating a Heat Illness Prevention Plan, remain conscientious of the consequences associated with heat-related illnesses and whether they pertain to your industry. In 2015 alone, exposure to environmental heat led to 37 work-related fatalities and an additional 2,830 nonfatal injuries resulting in days away from work.  If proper steps had been taken to create and train workers on heat exposure procedures, many (if not all) of the reported deaths could have been prevented.

2. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Before creating a Heat Illness Prevention Plan, roles and responsibilities affiliated with the plan have to be determined. Three common roles include:

  • Owner – a plan owner is responsible for defining the scope of a Heat Prevention Illness Plan. This individual or team should be familiar with company workflow processes and should be able to put controls in place to best reduce risk of heat-related illness. They should also be responsible for reviewing and updating the plan annually.
  • Administrator – the administrator is responsible for implementing the program into the workforce. Oftentimes, this role is held by a field supervisor or coordinator. An administrator ensures that all workers understand and abide by the key concepts of the plan. They are also responsible for certifying that the proper controls are employed both in-house and in the field.
  • Team Members – The Team Members are responsible for understanding the program and asking questions when they arise. The Team Members should also be able to identify when heat stress may be a hazard, recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illness, and be versed in the administration of basic first aid.

3. Create Best Practices and Procedures

The next step is to create the best practices and procedures that will be included in the Heat Illness Prevention Plan. Special attention should be paid to the hazards specific to your industry and line of work. Although templates can be found online, no single plan should be used as a one-size-fits-all solution. This can serve as a base, but each plan should be tailored to meet your specific needs.

When developing your best practices and procedures, make sure to address the following:

  • What job tasks are likely to be impacted by heat stress?
  • What controls can be used to minimize the risk?
  • How will workers be monitored for signs of illness?
  • What steps should be taken if it is believed someone is suffering from heat stress?

Additionally, it is important to ensure all practices and procedures are thorough but easy to follow and implement on the job.

4. Train Team Members

After you have established your Heat Illness Prevention Plan, you must provide your team with adequate training on the processes and procedures. OSHA recommends breaking training into three sessions. The first session should cover a basic heat stress overview along with the effects of heat-related illness. The next sessions should focus on how to recognize symptoms and respond to heat stress, and the last session should be specific to the plan controls and procedures.

5. Review and Update Frequently

To ensure that your company’s Heat Illness Prevention Plan is up to date, review your plan annually and make any necessary updates. By frequently updating your plan, you are ensuring the safety of your Team Members.

For a more comprehensive look at how to create a Heat Illness Prevention Plan, review criteria for a recommended standard put together by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

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