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Mitigating Heat Stress and Illness for Lone Workers: The Role of Lone Worker Applications

Learn how to safeguard lone workers from heat stress. Understand the risks, symptoms, and preventive measures to keep your team safe.


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With many of us hidden in air-conditioned offices, the powerful summer heat causes little problem for the average corporate employee. However, for lone workers who find themselves at the mercy of Mother Nature, the dangers of heat stress can be a serious issue that is often misunderstood or simply not prioritized. 

Heat exposure has led to over 6,000 deaths in the US and Canada over the last 3 years. Heat waves are becoming more intense and more prevalent–their frequency has increased steadily from an average of two heat waves per year during the 1960s to six per year during the 2010s and 2020s. As a result, extreme heat is a concern that is here to stay and should not be ignored. Keeping your lone and field workers safe from this invisible killer should be the priority as another summer rolls around. 

Let’s take a closer look at this hot topic and examine how you can protect your lone workers from heat stress.

What is heat stress?

Heat stress occurs when the body cannot cool itself adequately, leading to a range of heat-related illnesses, from mild conditions such as heat rash and cramps to severe conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Common illnesses caused by heat stress

When lone workers are put under serious heat stress, it can have a range of different impacts, depending on the person. However, there are a number of common illnesses or disorders that you should watch out for. These include: 

  • Heat stroke: The body can no longer control its temperature, making the body’s temperature rise rapidly. As the body's sweating mechanism fails, the person is unable to cool down
  • Heat exhaustion: The body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating
  • Rhabdomyolysis: Causes the rapid breakdown, rupture, and death of muscle
  • Heat syncope: A fainting episode or dizziness that usually occurs when standing for too long or suddenly standing up after sitting or lying
  • Heat cramps: Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps
  • Heat rash: A skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot weather

Who is most at risk of heat stress?

Delivery drivers, field, utilities, construction, gas, and oil workers, or anyone who spends long periods of time exposed to the sun or in high-temperature environments. The lack of immediate assistance in emergencies exacerbates their risk, making it crucial for employers to implement effective safety measures. Are your employees lone workers? Find out with our comprehensive guide.

Another factor that can put workers at high risk of heat stress incidents is the worker's physical condition. Individuals who are 65 years of age or older, above a healthy weight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications may be affected more easily by extreme heat.

Legal obligations of employers 

Heat safety regulations are an important way to protect workers from heat stress, especially those working alone in high-risk conditions. Recently, the Department of Labor has focused on improving rules to reduce heat-related hazards at work.

On April 24, 2024, OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health recommended that OSHA quickly proceed with a notice of proposed rulemaking for a new heat standard. This proposal aims to set clear guidelines for managing heat stress and illnesses.

Without a specific heat standard, OSHA currently uses the general duty clause to enforce heat safety. This clause requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. However, this method has limitations in consistently protecting workers from heat stress.

The proposed rule is a significant step toward formalizing heat safety measures. OSHA's draft framework outlines key regulatory components to reduce health risks from heat exposure. This effort addresses the rising incidence of heat-related illnesses and fatalities among workers, which is worsened by increasing global temperatures.

States with specific regulations

In addition to federal regulations, several states have already enacted specific legislation aimed at protecting workers from heat-related illnesses. For instance: 

  • California: The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has established comprehensive heat illness prevention regulations, including mandatory shade, water, and rest breaks for outdoor workers. 
  • Washington: The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has rules requiring employers to take preventive measures against heat stress, such as providing training and ensuring access to sufficient water and shade. 
  • Minnesota: Minnesota's heat stress standard mandates that employers must implement measures to protect workers from heat stress, particularly during high-heat conditions. 

Regulations in Canada

In Canada, Part X, section 10.19 on thermal stresses, requires employers to develop and implement procedures for monitoring and controlling thermal stress. This includes:

  • Monitoring thermal conditions, such as cooling power of wind and humidex.
  • Providing protective clothing and equipment.
  • Implementing administrative controls, such as fluid replacement, work-rest cycles, acclimatization, and work scheduling.
  • Using engineering controls, like temporary equipment, shields, insulation, and fans to reduce exposure.
  • Training employees to recognize signs and symptoms of overexposure to thermal stresses.
  • Reporting any incidents related to thermal stress exposure, including details on conditions, symptoms, protective measures, and treatment provided.

Implementing these guidelines and complying with upcoming regulations will help employers create safer working environments, reducing the risk of heat-related injuries and illnesses. If you want to understand more about the regulations surrounding lone workers, then check out our extensive guide: Understanding OSHA working alone laws: A comprehensive guide.

Mitigating heat stress with lone worker applications 

Employers can leverage technology to address the risks associated with heat stress for lone workers, specifically lone worker applications. These applications, like our very own SafetyAware, are designed to enhance the safety and monitoring of employees working in isolation. These lone worker solutions include:

Check-in timers 

These timers require workers to check in at regular intervals to confirm their safety and well-being. If a worker fails to check in within the specified time frame, the system triggers an alert, notifying supervisors or emergency contacts. 

This proactive monitoring system promptly addresses any signs of heat stress or other health issues. Further, some lone worker solutions allow for dynamic check-in timers so that employees are required to check-in more frequently during high heat periods. 

Hazard timers 

A hazard timer is a type of check-in timer used when high-hazard work is being performed. It is typically used for working at heights, near electricity, in confined spaces, or, in this case, in high heat. 

Once the timer is set, supervisors and contacts are immediately notified that high-hazard work is being performed. If a hazard check-in timer expires, the system triggers an additional emergency notification, often with additional escalation urgency. 

Geofencing 

Geofencing is a technology that allows users to establish a “virtual barrier” around a defined area, such as an active construction site, machine operating area, or other high-hazard area.  

A geofence can be created around an outdoor region experiencing high temperatures. Anyone entering that geofence will receive a warning about heat stress hazard and what actions they should take to stay safe on the job. 

SOS buttons 

In an emergency, such as experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke, the worker can press the SOS button to send an immediate distress signal. This signal includes the worker's location, enabling rapid response and assistance. 

The SOS button provides workers with a direct line of communication in critical situations, significantly reducing the risk of prolonged exposure to dangerous conditions. 

Lone worker safety devices-Smartphones

Cool, calm, and connected with Aware360

At Aware360, we focus on keeping your workers safe and connected. Our lone worker safety solutions help you manage heat stress effectively. Protecting lone workers from extreme temperatures is about using the right tools and creating a culture of safety. These solutions come in the form of apps, wearables, and devices and feature a range of features that can help keep your workers safe, such as:

  • Real-time monitoring: Our system continuously monitors your worker's status. Devices like the Belle X alert you to falls and lack of movement, helping you identify workers who need attention.
  • Proactive communication: Our SafetyAware solution enables instant communication between workers and supervisors. When temperatures rise, your team can quickly share updates, report symptoms, and get immediate guidance, addressing heat stress signs promptly.
  • Effective response: These safety solutions allow you to act fast, providing immediate support to lone workers in distress. Whether dispatching emergency services or directing workers to cool areas, our platform ensures help is always available.

Unfortunately, heat stress isn’t cured with a glass of water or some shade. By implementing proactive measures, providing training, and using effective safety solutions from Aware360, you can reduce the risks of extreme heat. Stay prepared and keep your workers safe and connected, regardless of the temperature. 

Ready to protect your lone workers from heat stress? Book a meeting with one of our safety experts to learn more about effective strategies and solutions that keep your team safe.

Meet with our experts and learn how we can support your organization’s safety culture

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