Summer is officially bearing down on us, and with it come the dangers associated with heat stress and overexertion. To keep ourselves and our colleagues safe, it is critically important to stay informed on weather conditions before work begins, and how to properly respond if a heat-related emergency occurs.
Below are some tips and tricks for preventing and identifying the different stages of heat-induced illnesses, as well as the dos and don’ts of treating someone suffering from heat stress.
Preventing Heat-Induced Illnesses
- Stay informed of weather conditions before starting jobs requiring exposure to direct sunlight
- Wear weather-appropriate clothing and avoid bulky, non-breathable equipment when possible
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen and take regular breaks in shaded areas
- Always monitor yourself and your coworkers for changes in behavior or symptoms of overheating
- Drink 4-6 ounces of water every 15 minutes. Do not wait until you’re thirsty to drink
- Remember: Water. Rest. Shade.
Signs of Heat-Induced Illnesses
- Heat Rash: Red clusters of pimples, small blisters, or skin irritation caused by excessive sweating or non-breathable clothing
- Heat Fatigue: Extreme tiredness and impaired mental/physical performance
- Heat Cramps: Painful cramps, muscle pain, or spasms in areas such as the abdomen, arms, and legs
- Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, dizziness, confusion, nausea, clammy skin, flushed complexion, and fast, shallow breathing
- Heat Stroke: The most severe heat-induced illness. Symptoms include throbbing headaches, chills, confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, and hallucinations. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability without emergency treatment!
Properly Treating Heat Stress
- Stop all activity and report symptoms to supervisors immediately
- Quickly move affected persons to a cool place, under the shade
- Remove or loosen outer clothing to encourage airflow
- Apply cold compresses and wipe the body with a wet cloth
- Drink hydrating liquids such as water or oral rehydration solutions (ORS)
- Apply dusting powder to any areas affected by heat rash
- Call 911 and seek medical help immediately if symptoms worsen or if the person becomes unresponsive
- Apply cold water or ice too fast – this can cause shock
- Chug or guzzle fluids. Rather, take sips to avoid upsetting the stomach
- Drink fluids with caffeine or alcohol as this will lead to further dehydration
- Return to normal activity right away. Your body may need to rest and recover for up to one week
Spread the Summer Safety
Keep you and your team safe this summer by sharing or printing this heat safety guide. Remember: Heat-induced illnesses are 100% preventable with proper preparation!
Click here for more OSHA guidelines on heat safety