Heat is a serious hazard to workers in many industries. Not only when workers are outdoors but also during indoor activity the body can build up heat and struggle to get rid of it.
According to the CDC, Extreme Heat causes more deaths every year than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods combined!
Workers need to be aware of their specific limitations and remember that sometimes their body may not cool off fast enough. Factors that can increase the chance of heat stress include:
- High temperature and humidity
- Not drinking enough water
- Direct exposure (with no shade) or extreme heat
- No breeze or wind
- Physical activity without breaks
- Use of bulky protective clothing and equipment
OSHA Standard 1926.21(b)(2) The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.
If heat stress is a possibility on the job, then all employees should be familiar with the symptoms of heat stress illnesses and the basic first aid treatment of all of them. Quick thinking by co-workers could save someone's life.
Heat Cramps are usually experienced as muscle spasms or cramping in the stomach, arms and the back of the legs or calves. If anyone is experiencing these cramps they should take frequent breaks and drink more water.
Heat Exhaustion symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, wet skin, confusion, nausea, or vomiting. If someone starts displaying any of these symptoms, a co-worker may need to step in to help provide assistance. Immediately move the affected worker from the hot area and give liquids to drink. Cool the worker down with cold compresses to the head, neck and face or have the worker wash his or her head, face and neck with cold water. The worker should be taken to a clinic or emergency room for a medical evaluation and treatment.
Heat Stroke is deadly! If any worker is experiencing red, hot and dry skin (they stop sweating), confusion, fainting or convulsions, their co-workers will need to take immediate action to help them. Immediately call 911 (there is no time to wait!) and move the affected worker to a cooler area. Cool the worker by removing outer layer clothing and fanning the worker. Apply wet towels or rags on their body if available while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.