Heat Stress Relief

We're in the heart of the summer season, and temperatures are near their hottest. This is the time of year to be especially aware of the weather and how it can affect you. Exposure to heat can cause illness, and even death. 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.

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

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 Cramps – Affects workers who sweat a lot during strenuous activity. Sweating deplete 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

To protect yourself against heat-related illnesses, avoid heavy exertion, extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity whenever possible. If these conditions can't be avoided, take the following preventative measures:

  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your co-workers for signs or symptoms of heat illnesses
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, such as cotton. Avoid non-breathable synthetic clothing.
  • 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.
  • Drink water frequently. Drink enough water that you don't become thirsty.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat-related illnesses

Replacing electrolytes and minerals lost while sweating is also an essential part of fighting off the effects of heat stress. Providing your workers with electrolyte replacement drinks or tablets will help keep them hydrated, healthy, and safe.

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.

Sources: OSHA, NIOSH

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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