SOME LIKE IT HOT….. BUT,
CARPENTERS MUST PRACTICE CAUTION WHILE WORKING IN THE SUMMER HEAT
SWCTF HEALTH & SAFETY LIAISON SERVICES
The heat wave that crept across the Midwest and Northeast this past month tormented millions of people. The National Weather Service put 18 states under a heat warning at one time and reported as many as 13 deaths in a single week due to the effects of the high heat. That high temperature and high humidity was uncomfortable and dangerous, but doesn’t match some of the extremes our members encounter in the Southwest.
Historically, the highest temperature ever recorded in the U.S. is July 1913 in Death Valley, CA at 134˚. Other states highest temperatures are; Laughlin, NV 125˚; Lakewood, NM 122˚; and Lake Havasu, AZ 128˚, all recorded in June 1994. The highest Texas temperature, 120˚, is recorded at Seymour in August 1936. Some “cooler” highest recorded temperatures are St. George, UT 117˚ and Bennett, CO 118˚ recorded in 1895. Thankfully, the National Weather Service doesn’t forecast Southwest summer temperatures to set any new high records this season, but carpenters performing strenuous work - sometimes in just high double digit temperatures (85˚) - can put themselves at risk of heat illness or even death.
Each year, the CDC reports over 30 heat related deaths for ALL workers in the U.S. Tragically, this year’s heat wave has claimed over 2 dozen lives so far. While Federal OSHA has been working on “non- mandatory” heat guidelines for some time, California is the first state to implement a Heat Illness Prevention Standard (T8, CCR, sec. 3395). The Standard applies to carpenters and other California workers in construction and outdoor jobs when these workers are at risk of heat-related illness or death. This risk is entirely preventable, and Cal-OSHA is enforcing the Heat Illness Prevention Standard now. So far, California and Washington are the only states enforcing High Heat guidelines, in states without specific guidelines Federal OSHA may use the General Duty clause to protect carpenters at risk of heat illness.
Heat Illness is a medical condition. It develops when a person’s body is no longer able to keep itself naturally cool thru sweating and begins to rapidly over heat. Remember your first aid training; heat illness gets worse if we ignore the conditions– heat cramps – heat exhaustion – heat stroke. The symptoms of heat stroke can come on very fast, sometimes within 10 to 15 minutes. The carpenter may become confused, red faced, clumsy or disorganized, and body temperature can soar to 103˚ or higher. At this point the carpenter may pass out. Heat Stroke can cause permanent injury to the body or death if emergency treatment is not started. The carpenter must be cooled down right away, and the job site Emergency Response started!
The Heat Illness Prevention Standard protects our membership working outside and also applies to carpenters working in unfinished structures doing inside work, such as drywall, T-bar or flooring. The standard applies when the temperature exceeds 85˚and requires employers to provide adequate water, shade, rest breaks, training and written heat emergency procedures. Adequate water is 1 quart per carpenter per hour (ice is nice but not required); shade is a cooler place, out of the sun within 5 minutes walk, and ‘cool down’ rest breaks are at least 5 minutes long and on the clock.When the temperature reaches 95˚ the employer must also implement high heat procedures to monitor workers at risk.
Carpenters especially at risk are those starting back to work after a period of layoff or new apprentices with little experience working in the heat. Carpenters with medical conditions or taking medications should ask their heath care provider if they should take extra precautions. At highest risk are those workers who haven’t started a personal fitness program yet, the ‘husky ones’. Or those workers who frequently can’t remember what happened the night before, the ‘party animals. Now’s the time, to survive working in the heat is a good reason to ‘shape up and clean up’!
Keep your CPR and First Aid skills current so you can tell when a co-worker is developing signs of heat stress and know what actions to take and help right away. While you need to keep these skills current for work don’t forget them when you take your hard hat off. Sadly, heat related emergencies affect hundreds of family members each year. During spells of high temperature, remember to check on older folks living alone without air-conditioning. If your child practices summer sports, quiz the coach’s’ knowledge of heat illness at 85˚, and the possibility of practice at cooler times. Finally remember never to leave babies or pets in unattended cars with the windows rolled up.
Contact your Carpenters Training Center for more information on Heat Illness and for classes to renew your CPR and First Aid certification. Have a safe and healthy summer.