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Heat Stress

We believe that your workplace can be incident free.

As spring turns into summer and brings up “hot weather,” we should all be aware of some tips to prevent heat stress.  Remember physical activity at high temperatures can directly affect health and indirectly be the cause of accidents.  Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat strokes are all possible during hot weather.  All heat related injuries need prompt medical attention.

Heat cramps are muscle cramps.  Usually these cramps occur in the arms or legs but may be in the abdominal or chest muscles as well.  These cramps are caused by excessive body fluid loss through sweating.  First aid includes moving the victim to a cool place; resting the cramping muscle and giving the person cool water.

Heat exhaustion signs include heavy sweating, weakness, fast pulse, normal body temperature, headache and dizziness, nausea and vomiting.  First aid for heat exhaustion requires the worker to be moved to a cool place.  Keep them lying down with their legs straight and elevated 8 to 12 inches.  Apply cold packs, wet towels, or just wet their clothing to cool them.  Give the victim cold water only if he or she is conscious.  If the victim loses consciousness or if no improvement is noted within 30 minutes, seek professional medical attention.

Heat stroke is a true emergency!  Signs and symptoms include high body temperature, unconsciousness, hot skin, rapid pulse and breathing, weakness, dizziness or headache. Immediate first aid is required.  Move the victim to a cool place and immediately cool the worker by any available means (use ice and water from a jobsite cooler for example).  Keep the head and shoulders slightly elevated.  Monitor the airway; check to be sure the victim is breathing.  Call for professional help or rush the heat stroke victim to a hospital immediately.

What Is Heat Stress?

It’s a signal that says the body is having difficulty maintaining it’s narrow temperature range.  The heart pumps faster, blood is diverted from internal organs to the skin, breathing rate increases, sweating increases, all in an attempt to transfer more heat to the outside air and cool the skin by evaporation of sweat.  If the body can’t keep up then the person suffers effects ranging from heat cramps to heat exhaustion, and finally to heat stroke.

Dry Clothes and Skin doesn’t mean You’re not Sweating!

In dry climates you might not feel wet or sticky, but you are still sweating.  On a very warm day you can lose as much as two liters of fluid.

Prevention of heat illness is very important.  Gradual adaptation to working in hot weather is a start.  As the weather heats up, take a few short breaks during the day; and, if possible, schedule heavy work so that it does not have to be accomplished during the hottest part of the day.  Dress sensibly and drink plenty of water.  Keep a sharp eye out for potential heat injuries in co-workers.  Try to practice prevention – it’s the name of the game – and it will keep you from becoming a victim of a heat related illness.

Beat the heat.  Help prevent the ill effects of heat stress by:

  • Drinking water frequently and moderately (every 15-30 minutes—about a glassful).  Due to the fact that most of us already consume excessive salt in our diets salt tablets are NOT recommended for general use.
  • Resting frequently.
  • Eating lightly.
  • Doing more strenuous jobs during the cooler morning hours.
  • Utilizing the ventilation or fans in enclosed areas.
  • Remembering that it takes about 1-2 weeks for the body to adjust to the heat this adaptation to heat is quickly lost—so your body will need time to adjust after a vacation too.
  • Avoiding alcohol consumption.  Many cases of heat stroke have occurred the day after a “night on the town.”
  • Wearing light colored, cotton clothes and keeping your shirt on—desert nomads don’t wear all those clothes for nothing.

Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency. Call for professional help immediately!

STS Solutions, Inc.  Solutions to Enable Safe Working Environments.