Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Heat can also increase the risk of injuries in workers as it may result in sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness.

Prevention of heat stress in workers is important. Here is a brief review of what heat stress is, how it affects your health and safety, and how it can be prevented.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating.

Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Heavy Sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness, confusion
  • Nausea
  • Clammy, moist skin
  • Pale or flushed complexion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Slightly elevated body temperature
  • Fast and shallow breating

First Aid

Treat a worker suffering from heat exhaustion with the following:

  • Have them rest in a cool, shaded or air conditioned area. 
  • Have them drink plenty of water or other cool, non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Have them take a cool shower

Heat Stroke

Symptoms

Symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • Hot, dry skin (no sweating)
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech

First Aid

Take the following steps to treat a worker with heat stroke:

  • Call 911 and notify their supervisor.
  • Move the sick worker to a cool shaded area.
  • Cool the worker using methods such as: Soaking their clothes with water, spraying, sponging or showering them with water, and fanning their body.

Recommendations for Workers

  • Workers should avoid exposure to extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity when possible. When these exposures cannot be avoided, workers should take the following steps to prevent heat stress:
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
  • Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing.
  • Gradually build up to heavy work. Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
  • Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity.
  • Take breaks in the shade or a cool area when possible.
  • Drink water frequently. Drink enough water that you never become thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.

Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.

Share This