Although the first day of summer does not officially arrive until June 21st, the summer heat is already here. Anyone working outside or in an unconditioned space such as an attic or mechanical room knows this. It’s more important than ever that we stay hydrated on the job during this time of the year. Make sure you have adequate water and a shaded/air-conditioned area to rest during the course of your workday.
Extended Safety Message:
- Be aware that the body may take longer to cool off during hot weather conditions.
- Factors that can increase the chance of heat stress include: high temperatures, high humidity, not enough water, direct sun exposure, long periods physical activity, lack of rest periods.
- There is a range of heat illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.
- Keep an eye on each other and report heat illness symptoms quickly to the supervisor.
- In 2017, 87 people died in the U.S. from exposure to excessive heat, according to the National Safety Council.
- Dehydration symptoms include thirst, fatigue, muscle cramps and a headache.
- Heat-related illnesses can escalate rapidly, leading to delirium, organ damage and even death.
- Visit the OSHA webpage on Occupational Heat Exposure.
There are several heat related illnesses including heatstroke, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.
Seek medical help immediately if someone is suffering from heat stroke. Signs and symptoms include flushed skin that is very hot to the touch; rapid breathing; headache, dizziness, confusion or irrational behavior; and convulsions or unresponsiveness. The victim also will likely have stopped sweating. Do not hesitate to take action:
- Call 911 immediately
- Move the victim to a cool place
- Remove outer clothing
- Immediately cool the victim with any means at hand, preferably by immersing up to the neck in cold water (with the help of a second rescuer)
- If immersion in cold water is not possible, place the victim in a cold shower or move to a cool area and cover as much of the body as possible with cold, wet towels
- Do not try to force the victim to drink liquids
- Monitor the victim’s breathing and be ready to give CPR if needed
When the body loses an excessive amount of salt and water, heat exhaustion can set in. Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and can include severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and, sometimes, diarrhea. Other symptoms include profuse sweating, clammy or pale skin, dizziness, rapid pulse and normal or slightly elevated body temperature. Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heatstroke, so make sure to treat the victim quickly.
- Move them to a shaded or air-conditioned area
- Give them water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages
- Apply wet towels or having them take a cool shower
Heat cramps are muscle spasms that usually affect the legs or abdominal muscles, often after physical activity. Excessive sweating reduces salt levels in the body, which can result in heat cramps. Workers with pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms or legs should not return to work for a few hours. Instead:
- Sit or lie down in the shade
- Drink cool water or a sports drink
- Stretch affected muscles
- Seek medical attention if you have heart problems or if the cramps don’t get better in an hour