Preventing Heat Sickness
Many people are exposed to heat on some jobs, both in outdoor and indoor environments. When you are working in high humidity areas, direct sunlight or performing a strenuous physical task, there is a high potential for having a heat-related illnesses. Every year, thousands of workers experience occupational heat exposure, which can lead to sickness or death. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.
What is heat stress?
- When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating – several heat-induced illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion and the more severe heat stroke can occur.
What kind of heat disorders can occur?
- Heat Cramps: usually a result of hard physical labor in a hot environment, often resulting from an imbalance of electrolytes in the body.
- Heat Rashes: a common problem resulting from persistent wetting of clothing by unevaporated sweat.
- Heat Exhaustion: a result of the combination of excessive heat and dehydration. Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
- Heat Stroke: starts as heat exhaustion and progresses if not treated. Seek medical help immediately; this is the most serious disorder associated with heat stress. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulation fails and body temperature continues to rise to critical levels, which can lead to death if not taken care of immediately.
The table below shows some environmental and job-specific factors that increase the risk of heat-related illness:
|Less than 91°F
||Basic heat safety and palnning
|91°F – 103°F
||Implement precautions and awareness
|103°F – 115°F
||Additional precautions to protect workers
|Greater than 115°F
||Triggers even more aggressive measures
- Nausea, headache, vomiting
- Cramping in arms, legs, abdomen
- Weakness, dizziness
- Difficulties breathing
- Rapid heart beat
What should you do when you notice the onset of symptoms of heat stress?
- Seek shade or air conditioning to cool down
- Increase fluid intake
- Never hesitate to rest
- Remove clothing if needed
- Use cool water with fanning
- If ice is available, place ice packs in armpits, behind neck and in groin area
What can I do to prevent heat-related conditions?
- Make sure everyone on crew is able to recognize the signs, symptoms, and treatment for heat stress
- Know when the temperature and humidity reach hazardous levels
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Take frequent work breaks in an area that is cooler than the work environment
- Watch others for signs of heat stress