Don't Ignore the Signs of Heat Stress

Despite this past winter’s record cold temperatures across most of the country, summer, and the high temperatures and humidity it brings, will be here before you know it. It’s a great time to think about how you’ll avoid heat stress as the temperatures rise. Every year, thousands of workers become sick from heat exposure, and some even die. It’s crucial to know the warning signs of heat-related illnesses, and how to protect yourself against them.

Prolonged exposure to hot, humid conditions puts you at risk of heat illnesses. The risk increases if you’re doing heavy work tasks or wearing heavy, bulky clothing. Your body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough to cool down. Your body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if you don’t take the proper precautions.

Here’s what to be aware of when working in high temperatures and how to treat it:

Heat Cramps– Affects workers who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Sweating depletes the body’s salt and moisture levels.

       Symptoms –

  • Muscle cramps, pain, or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs

       First Aid / Immediate Treatment –

  • Stop all activity and sit in a cool place
  • Drink clear juice or a sports beverage, or drink water with food
  • Avoid salt tablets
  • Do not return to strenuous work for a few hours after the cramps subside
  • Seek medical attention if you have heart problems, are on a low-sodium diet, or if the cramps don’t subside within one hour

Heat Exhaustion – The body’s response to the loss of water and salt, usually through sweating.

       Symptoms –

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Slightly elevated body temperature

       First Aid / Immediate Treatment –

  • Rest in a cool area
  • Drink plenty of water or other cool beverages
  • Take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath

Heat Stroke – The most dangerous heat-related illness. This occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. It can cause death or permanent disability.

       Symptoms –

  • High body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Throbbing headache
  • Seizures, coma

       First Aid / Immediate Treatment –

  • Request immediate medical assistance
  • Move the worker to a cooler, shaded area
  • Remove excess clothing and apply cool water to their body
  • If needed, apply ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, and armpits

To help avoid these conditions, take the following preventative measures:

  • Gradually build up to heavy work
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of the day
  • Take more breaks when doing heavier work, and in high heat and humidity. Take breaks in the shade or a cool area.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.

Over exposure to high heat and humidity can be dangerous. With the proper training and proper precautions to prevent heat-related illness, you can protect your health and the health of your co-workers. If you have questions about how any of our products can help you minimize the risk of heat-related illnesses, give our Technical Support Reps a call at 800.922.8553, or email techsupport@northernsafety.com. They’re here to help.

Northern Safety Co., Inc.
PO Box 4250. Utica, NY 13504-4250
Phone: 1-800-571-4646
Fax: 1-800-635-1591

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