Summertime is great, if you’re in a pool or in the backyard relaxing in the shade. But hot summer temperatures make working outside more stressful and dangerous. This is information on how to protect yourself and co-workers from the heat and first aid measures in case someone becomes ill. Heat-related illnesses include everything from uncomfortable heat rash to death caused by heat stroke. In most cases, we’re most concerned with heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat Stroke is the most serious health problem when working in a hot environment. The body is unable to regulate its core temperature. Victims of heat stroke can die unless treated promptly. Symptoms of heat stroke include: hot dry skin that is pale, mottled or bright red, confusion, unconsciousness, convulsions or coma. CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY—even before rendering assistance. While waiting for emergency services, move victim to a shaded area. Fan victim; loosen clothing and cool body down with wet compresses.
Heat Exhaustion is characterized by clammy, moist skin. The victim may complain of headache, nausea, weakness or seem giddy. Move victim to a shaded area and have them drink water or an electrolyte solution. If victim is not responding, call 9-1-1. Heat exhaustion may lead to heat stroke without care.
Heat Cramps are painful muscle spasms. Move victim to a cool shady area and have them drink an electrolyte solution such as Gatorade. If victim loses consciousness, vomits or if muscle cramping is severe, seek medical assistance.
Ways to stay safe in hot weather:
- Limit alcohol and caffeine (this includes coffee, colas and energy drinks) intake.
- Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothing.
- Wear sunscreen and sunglasses when working in the sun.
- Eat regular, well-balanced meals, avoiding hot or heavy food.
- Be aware that water, concrete, and sand reflect the sun and make it stronger.
- Where possible, perform the heaviest work during the coolest part of the day.
- Build up tolerance to the heat and the work activity slowly. This takes about two weeks.
- Work in pairs.
- Drink more water – about a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes – Take special care when temperatures are above 100º F or during periods of high humidity.
Remember: Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink water, drink continuously all day long. Little or no desire to drink, fatigue and headache results from loss of fluids.
Employees who are heavier, older, taking medication (even over-the-counter drugs) are more at risk of getting sick when working in hot weather.
Stay alert for early symptoms of excessive exposure to heat and tell you supervisor if you or a co-worker are experiencing any symptoms of heat –related illness.