Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential to protecting employees against potentially hazardous conditions and environments. In rising summer temperatures, however, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) notes PPE can increase individuals’ risk of developing heat-related illnesses. This is because PPE can reduce the body’s ability to get rid of heat or prevent excess heat and moisture from escaping. Additionally, PPE can be heavy, requiring workers to exert additional effort. Fortunately, NIOSH says there are steps workplaces can take to decrease employees’ PPE-related heat burden, including implementing expert-approved plans and procedures that may include:

  • Appropriate work / rest cycles that take into account the type of PPE used; workers’ fitness and hydration levels; and environmental conditions (e.g., shade available)
  • Employee cooling techniques, such as moving to air-conditioned rooms and using cool packs or wet towels during rest breaks
  • Employer-provided wearable cooling systems (e.g., ice vests, vortex tubes) that are designed to lower individuals’ core body temperatures
  • Workplace education on the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, including excessive thirst, headaches, flushed skin, heavy sweating, fatigue, dizziness, decreased cognitive function, and loss of balance
  • Workplace training on how employees can better recognize, prevent, and respond to or treat heat-related illnesses

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