Hot Weather Safety
Program Evaluation, Development and Training
Outdoor Recreation / Occupational Safety / Public Health & Safety
We specialize in custom heat and cold stress solutions for occupational safety, public health, sports programs, and outdoor recreation. Contact Us.
If you really understand how to keep cool, you can easily avoid heat-related medical problems and work comfortably, safely, and productively - despite the heat.
- Moulton Avery
Credit: Washington Post
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Working outdoors during the 2023 heat wave in Phoenix, AZ
Whether your concern is occupational or recreational safety, it's important to recognize that hot weather can create a challenging – and sometimes very dangerous - environment. If not managed correctly, heat stress reduces performance and can also lead to serious heat-related medical problems.
Some of these problems are immediately life-threatening while others can result in long-term issues like chronic kidney disease. All of them are preventable.
Bottom Line: Managing heat stress effectively is a key element in workplace productivity and safety as well as recreational performance and safety.
Occupational and Recreational Safety Consulting.
Expert Witness Testimony on Hot Weather Issues
Evaluation and Creation of Resource Materials.
No matter how well-intentioned, any occupational hot weather safety program that provides little or no practical information to supervisors and workers will have a negligible effect in reducing heat-related medical problems and associated injuries and fatalities.
- Moulton Avery
Education vs Regulation
The most effective way to maximize occupational safety in hot environments is through education. Practical, easily-implemented solutions that provide an immediate improvement in worker comfort, performance and safety will be well-received by management, supervisors, and workers alike. This ensures voluntary compliance.
Information about heat stress, as well as guidelines for working in hot environments, must be practical and realistic in order to be effective. Telling a summer roofing crew in Texas to work during the cooler part of the day and avoid direct sunlight as much as possible plays like a stand-up comedy routine. It guarantees that your hot weather message will not be taken seriously.
Conversely, heat stress solutions that reduce risk - and increase worker comfort and productivity - will be well-received by management, supervisors, and workers alike. This is the essential difference between mandating 10-minute "rest in the shade" breaks and guzzling water vs using evaporation, conduction, and convection to eliminate heat stress itself. The former is of limited value in reducing heat stress and guarantees pushback from business interests, while the latter is highly effective.
Practical Yardsticks for Evaluating Educational Resources
Is the information accurate?
Is it proactive?
Does it effectively address the issue?
Does it empower and motivate recipients to change behavior?
Can it be improved by simplifying the message?
Prevention vs Treatment
The primary emphasis of hot weather safety must always be on prevention - in other words, on reducing heat stress. That's because first-aid only comes into play after the heat-related medical problem has already occurred.
Here's why the current first-aid approach is ineffective in preventing or even properly responding to occupational heat-related medical problems: It's completely unrealistic to expect workers or supervisors to read a poster or watch a video, memorize a confusing list of signs and symptoms associated with various heat-related medical problems, make a differential diagnosis in the field between heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and then decide whether or not to call for help. Yet that's precisely the way that most hot weather safety information is presented.
For example, the survival prognosis for heat stroke is very poor, even with prompt first aid and a rapid EMS response. For this reason, a hot weather safety program that spends valuable time emphasizing first-aid for heat stroke at the expense of techniques that actually prevent heat stress will be far less effective in reducing close calls and fatalities. Similarly, focusing on first aid for heat syncope / heat exhaustion does nothing to prevent a worker from becoming dizzy, fainting, falling and sustaining a head injury.
Internationally Recognized Subject-Matter Expert
Moulton Avery is an internationally recognized authority on cold water safety, and an expert on heat and cold stress with over 50 years of practical field experience. He served as Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Physiology in Washington, DC for ten years, where he developed the first national public health campaigns to safeguard vulnerable populations during extremes of hot and cold weather.
Before moving to Washington, DC, Mr. Avery founded and directed Carolina Wilderness Institute, an outdoor skills-training school based in North Carolina. The Institute offered dozens of semester-length courses, classes, and workshops on a wide range of wilderness travel and outdoor safety subjects. The Institute's Environmental Training Program on occupational safety led to the establishment of the Center for Environmental Physiology.
In 2012, Mr. Avery founded the National Center for Cold Water Safety and currently serves as its Director.