Do you know the signs of heat stress? Each year heat exposure affects workers, leading to sickness and in some cases death. Most heat hazards are thought to occur while working in high temperatures outdoors, but heat hazards are present indoors as well. Employers and workers should be trained and knowledgable on preventing and treating heat-related injuries and illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress occurs when too much heat has been absorbed due to environmental and job-specific factors. Factors include high temperatures, contact with hot objects, direct sun exposure, physical exertion and bulky, non-breathable ppe. Heat stress is serious and can result in illness, injury or death.
Heat Related Illnesses:
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat stroke
Each of these illnesses can affect workers, but heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the most damaging forms of heat stress and may require medical attention. Workers should be able to spot the signs and know what steps to take if heat exhaustion or heat stroke occurs.
Differences Between Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke:
How To Help
If you think someone is suffering from a heat stroke call 911 immediately. This is a medical emergency that could result in death. While waiting on medical professionals to arrive you can help the worker get into a cool, shaded area, loosen their clothing and help remove outer layer of clothing, fan air onto them and provide ice pack underneath armpits if possible and be sure they are drinking cold fluids.
If you or another worker are experiencing heat exhaustion you should stop working immediately and move to a cool, shaded area. Be sure to drink cold water, apply cold compresses and stop working for the day. Keep on eye on the symptoms. If symptoms have not improved or have worsened after one hour seek medical attention.
Preventing Heat Stress
Environmental and job-specific factors contributing to heat stress can be avoided to prevent injury and illness. Because these factors are often present, it is important for workers to prepare for the heat. Each worker that could face these factors needs training on how to prevent the dangers of heat and become acclimated to their work environment. Acclimation to heat and work environment is one of the most important steps to preventing heat stress. Workers who have never worked in high temperatures for long periods of time or are unfit to do so should acclimate themselves to their surroundings before diving into a days work.
The heat index is helpful for workers exposed to high heat. Use it as a prevention tool. The heat index takes temperature and humidity into account to determine how hot it feels. When the temperature in the air is similar to or slightly higher than normal body temperature it becomes harder to cool off. The blood circulated to the skin cant lose its heat and sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. Sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation and the fluids and salts the body is losing become replaced. Use the heat index guide below.
Any worker can experience heat stress factors with the possibility of injury or illness. Always watch for heat stress symptoms and know how to prevent and treat heat illnesses should they occur.