Working Safely In The Heat

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Jun 19, 2019

The summer months are here and so is the heat! Each year, hundreds of Americans suffer injuries or even death from heat-related illnesses. Workers are exposed to heat in both indoor and outdoor heat environments. Workers in environments that involve high air temperatures, sunlight, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities all have a potential for heat-related illnesses.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a condition where symptoms including heavy sweating and a rapid pulse as a result of the body overheating. A person suffering from heat exhaustion is likely to be sweating profusely which means their body can get rid of heat by sweating. If not treated immediately, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.

Treatment for heat exhaustion involves calling 911 and then moving the person to a cool area, removing unnecessary clothing, and giving them cool water to drink until help arrives.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke occurs when your core temperature rises above 104°F which restricts the body’s ability to regulate itself. Signs of heat stroke include confusion, feeling disoriented, lack of sweat, and a loss of consciousness.

Classic heat stroke occurs on hot days when workers are not able to stay properly hydrated or during extreme heat waves when air-conditioned space is not available.

The effects of heat stroke put workers at risk for permanent brain damage, heart and kidney damage, and even death if left untreated.

If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 immediately and then move the person to a shaded, cool area. Remove unnecessary clothing and cool the person quickly with cold water or an ice bath while you wait for emergency responders to arrive.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are caused by lack of hydration or electrolytes in the body and are usually present in the legs, arms, or abdomen.

Heat cramps should be treated by drinking water and an electrolyte replacement drink as well as resting for at least an hour.

Heat Rash

Heat rash occurs when sweat does not evaporate from the skin and results in clusters of red bumps. Heat rash is often seen in hot work environments.

Heat rash can be treated by keeping the rash area dry and using powder for comfort. Creams and ointments should not be used.

Sunburn

Sunburn occurs after unprotected exposure to the sun and results in the skin becoming hot and painful to the touch.

Sunburns can be prevented by using sunscreen, wearing clothing that covers the skin, and staying out of the sun.

How to Prevent Heat Related Illnesses

  • Stay hydrated – Drink 16 ounces of fluid before working in the heat and an additional 6 ounces every 15-20 minutes
  • Avoid dehydrating liquids including alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated sodas
  • Wear protective clothing including lightweight, light colored and loose-fitting clothing
  • Schedule frequent breaks for rest and water breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area
  • Avoid getting sunburn by applying sunscreen and wearing a hat
  • Be alert to signs of heat-related illness in yourself and your coworkers
  • Eat smaller meals including fruits that are high in fiber and natural juice

Follow our #YHSafetyTips blog for weekly updates! If you haven’t read last week’s blog on Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), you can find it here.

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