Hot Fun in the Summertime by Jim Kaznosky and Harry J. Oster

In the New York City area between June and September, ambient temperatures average in the mid to high 80's and may rise above 100° Fahrenheit (F). Summer is also the time of year that people tend to spend increased time outdoors, either for work or recreation. Along with elevated temperatures, high humidity can make the outdoors feel even hotter and can make it an unhealthy place to be. If your job entails activity in hot, humid weather, heat related illness can be a major occupational hazard. Additionally, pre-existing medical conditions may contribute to heat related illness. Some common heat related illnesses and their symptoms include:

  • Heatstroke - a life-threatening condition in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid heartbeat and dizziness
  • Heat exhaustion - an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
  • Heat cramps - muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise
    Heat rash - skin irritation from excessive sweating usually appearing where clothing is restrictive
    The following tips can help prevent adverse health effects related to summer weather:
  • Stay hydrated; drink water even before you feel thirsty. You may need a cup of water every fifteen minutes during intense outdoor physical activity!
  • Work in the shade, when possible; take frequent rest breaks in a cool, shady, or air-conditioned spot.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing, preferably made of cotton or quick drying, performance fabric. Apply sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses (check the UV protection ratings for the glasses and sunscreen).
  • Heavy work or the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) are additional stressors and extra allowances in terms of hydration and break times need to be considered.
  • Most importantly, treat any heat related illness seriously and seek medical attention immediately if conditions worsen.


The Importance of Proper Training by Andrew Sillin

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly 4 million employees are injured on the job in the United States every year and each day 13 employees are killed on the job. OSHA has promulgated numerous regulations aimed at protecting America's workforce from injury and illness. A primary component of these regulations is safety training for employees. Proper training is essential to maintaining a safe workplace and is a primary method of accident prevention. Other safety tools, such as engineering controls (e.g., chemical fume hoods, biological safety cabinets) and personal protective equipment (e.g., lab coats, hand and eye protection) are also important for safety, but without safety awareness, these tools may not be used properly or to their fullest potential, thus compromising their effectiveness in protecting the user. Without proper training, laboratory personnel may be unintentionally putting themselves, their colleagues and others at risk, and may not know the proper protocols to follow in the event of an emergency.
Columbia University has developed a complement of safety training programs to address potential workplace hazards that may be encountered across the University, which also meet OSHA's training requirements. It is essential that all University personnel understand their individual training requirements and attend the appropriate training for the type of work performed or potential hazards present. Information about the University's laboratory training programs can be viewed @ http://www.ehs.columbia.edu/Training.html, where specifics about courses, schedules, frequency and other training-related information can be found. Safety training for Facilities personnel should be referred to the respective campus' Facilities Compliance Teams. Contact safetytraining@columbia.edu with any training questions or suggestions.

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