Working in the heat, especially during Summer months, can lead to illness or even death. Common reactions are heat exhaustion, heat stroke, heat cramps and heat rash — all of which can be avoided following these heat stress prevention tips from OSHA.
Some risk factors that can cause heat stress include:
- High temperature and humidity, direct sun exposure, no breeze or wind
- Low liquid intake
- Heavy physical labor
- Waterproof clothing/non-breathable fabrics
- No recent exposure to hot workplaces
You may be experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke if you have the following symptoms: headache, dizziness, fainting, weakness and wet skin, irritability or confusion, thirst, nausea, vomiting, passing out, collapse, seizures, or even if you have stopped sweating.
To prevent heat stress, make sure a heat stress prevention program is in place by your employer. Cool water should be available to workers close to the work area (at least one pint of water per hour is needed). Drinks with alcohol or caffeine should be avoided as these will dehydrate you. Work schedules should include rest periods and water breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas. New employees may need to be acclimated to the heat by gradually increasing their workloads and allowing for more frequent breaks to stay hydrated. Protective clothing that's lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting should be worn. Consider those that provide cooling such as a vented hard hat or hats with neck shades, cooling pads, cooling vests, and sunscreen.
If you or a fellow worker does experience heat illness, call a supervisor for help. If the supervisor is not available, call 911. Someone should stay with the worker until help arrives. If possible, move the worker to a cooler/shaded area and remove outer clothing. Fan and mist the worker with water, apply ice (ice bags or ice towels), and provide cool drinking water if the worker is able to drink. If the worker is not alert or seems confused, he or she may be experiencing heat stroke. Call 911 immediately and apply ice as soon as possible if this is the case.