100 Safe Days of Summer: The Heat is On
Hydrate, Acclimate, Rest, Be Aware
As the heat of summer increases, the dangers of working outside or inside non-climate controlled buildings also increases. You must prepare yourself at home and at work to prevent yourself from becoming a victim to this environmental stress. Not knowing, not preparing and not taking proper action could lead to a serious heat related injury or death. Heat is an issue at both home and work. What you do at home to prepare (hydration and rest) can affect your body’s response to heat at work.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder and occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature.
The body temperature can rise to 106º F or higher within 10-15 minutes and heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
HEAT STROKE (most serious): Body temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. Body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.
HEAT EXHAUSTION: Body's response to excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Most prone are elderly or those who have high blood pressure. Can also result in heat cramps.
HEAT RASH: Skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. Most common problem in hot work environments.
HEAT SYNCOPE (faint-light headed): Usually occurs with prolonged standing or sudden rising from sitting or lying position. Contributing Factors: Dehydration and lack of acclimatization.
How to identify and help a person under Heat Stress
Workers at greater risk of heat stress include those who are 65 years of age or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.
- High body temperature; Confusion; Seizures; Throbbing headache; Hot dry skin.
- Heavy sweating; Rapid heart beat; Nausea; Fast breathing; Fatigue.
- Muscle cramps, pains, or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs.
What to Do
- Call supervisor for help.
- Have someone stay with worker.
- Move worker to a cooler/shaded area.
- Remove outer clothing.
- Fan and mist the worker with water; apply ice bags/towels.
Tips to Prevent Heat-Related Stress and Injuries
Different levels of methods preventing heat stress exist, ranging from engineering controls, to simple work/rest/home practices, to training/acclimatization and to hydration.
- Increase the frequency and length of rest breaks.
- Encourage employees adopt the same procedures at home and to get plenty of rest and hydration.
- Reduce the physical demands of the job, such as excessive lifting, climbing, or digging with heavy objects. Use mechanical devices or assign extra workers.
- Provide adequate supply of potable water <15°C (59°F) – workers should drink five to seven ounces of cool fluids every fifteen to twenty minutes (Inform and encourage them to do so).
- Utilize personal cooling devices – ice vests, air or fluid-cooled vests, personal fans.
- New & returning employees – work half days or spread the 4 hours of activity over 8 hours for at least 5 days.
- Redesign, relocate, isolate or substitute heat-producing equipment and/or process. Utilize reflective screens, barriers for radiant heat shielding or shaded areas.
- Provide local exhaust ventilation at points of heat generation and cooling spots within work areas (or rest areas).
- Monitor weather reports daily and schedule work during the cooler parts of the work shift or on cooler days.
- Train on the importance of immediately reporting to the supervisor any symptoms or signs of heat-related illness in themselves or in coworkers (i.e. use of a buddy system).
- Train workers to recognize symptoms of heat stress and take necessary action to reduce/ limit their exposure.
- Train the procedures for responding to symptoms of heat-related illness and contacting emergency medical services.
- Take time to acclimatize
- Work shorter shifts until your body adjusts to the heat
- Stay well-hydrated
- Drink often, BEFORE you get thirsty
- Watch for signs of heat-related illnesses
- Designate a buddy and ask how they feel periodically
- Take time to rest and cool down
- Sit somewhere cool, rest and rehydrate frequently