Cement manufacturing plants are high-risk work zones. Chemical burns, excess noise, mechanical hazards, falling objects and airborne dust are some of the most common, but there’s another risk for cement companies to account for – heat.
In areas where heat is excessive, it can quickly lead to severe injuries if safety precautions aren’t taken. These precautions are generally simple, but they rely on strong planning and information to work – information like to-the-minute temperature data.
Heat is Always Present in Cement Plants, Making Heat Injuries a Significant Risk
Cement manufacturing plants generate intense heat, some of which escapes into the work environment. If poorly managed, the resulting rise in temperatures may put workers at risk. Further, workers are required to don protective wear that, while safeguarding the lungs, can trap thermal energy and put workers at increased risk of heat-related injury. This risk is higher still in hotter climates, like those along the Gulf Coast.
If a heat injury or illness does occur, it may take one of several forms, but heat exhaustion and heat stroke require the most attention. Here is how each one presents:
- Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is less serious than heat stroke, but it can quickly develop into a medical emergency. Signs of heat exhaustion include an elevated body temperature, weakness, dizziness, headaches or cramps, changes in mood and reduced urination. Workers experiencing heat exhaustion should receive prompt medical treatment, including transport to a medical facility in serious cases.
- Heat stroke – Heat stroke is a medical emergency and may result in permanent or fatal injury if not immediately treated. When the body loses its ability to regulate its temperature, heat stroke is the result. As such, heat stroke can cause body temperature to spike in excess of 106 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. It may also cause profound confusion, an altered mental state, seizures, or loss of consciousness.
Heat is a silent killer, resulting in hundreds of deaths every year. With some basic precautions, though, many of those deaths can be prevented.
A Heat Safety Plan is Recommended for Cement Plants
The upside is that cement companies can plan around heat hazards and minimize their impact on worker safety. OSHA does not require organizations to have a heat safety plan in place, but they can make a big difference. Such a plan should include:
- The personnel responsible for communicating and enforcing heat safety processes.
- The location and nature of any heat hazards.
- What medical facility to contact (and how to contact them) should a heat injury occur.
- What onsite resources are available should a heat injury occur – and where to locate them.
- What onsite resources are available to prevent heat injuries, such as cooling and water stations.
- What measures and resources are in place to monitor temperature data.
A plan like this can be developed and communicated quickly to workers. It’s critical, though, that these procedures are enforced and backed up at the worker level. When a worker suffers a heat injury, the first people to notice are the people he’s working with. With safety plan training, those workers will be better equipped to notice heat injuries and properly respond to them.
An Effective Tool Against Heat Injuries: Easy-to-Carry Thermometers
As an invisible hazard, heat has a tendency to sneak up on workers and safety personnel. It can creep into dangerous territory without anyone noticing, at least not until a medical emergency occurs.
Constant temperature monitoring is the only way to keep an eye on heat hazards, but that can be prohibitively difficult in cement manufacturing facilities. Heat hazards may be present throughout the facility and may develop as work conditions change. The sheer scale of a cement facility adds to this difficulty.
One solution is to empower workers to track temperature data where they’re working. There’s no better way to get location-specific data, and it can be done quickly and inexpensively with the use of liquid crystal thermometers (LCTs).
The crystals inside LCTs respond to changes in temperature, specifically by rearranging themselves and contorting into different shapes. This changes their optical qualities – which we receive as a change in color. LCTs are inexpensive, accurate and can be incorporated into compact, lightweight items.
For example, LCTs can be embedded in TWIC sized heat cards that provide clear data about ambient temperature. Each card can feature additional information about heat injury symptoms or prevention methods. They can also feature the organization’s branding. They can be kept on a lanyard, in a toolbox, or even in the worker’s back pocket.
In this way, workers maintain constant heat awareness and can remove themselves from hazardous conditions as soon as they arise.
Give Cement Plant Workers the Tools to Protect Themselves from Heat-Related Injury
Cement plant workers rely on their company and their safety personnel to maintain a safe workplace. And from a safety standpoint, there’s a lot to consider at cement manufacturing facilities. Don’t forget to account for heat, though, as it’s certainly capable of fatal injury. That means developing a detailed heat safety plan and providing the resources your teams need to protect themselves.