The season for high temperatures and humidity has arrived, making heat stress a serious concern for anyone working outside. Heat stress occurs because we often build up heat faster than we can dissipate it. Too much heat can make us tired, hurt our job performance, and increase our chances of several heat related injuries including:
- Dehydration. When your body loses water, you can’t cool off fast enough. You feel thirsty and weak.
- Cramps. You can get muscle cramps from the loss of electrolytes in your system.
- Heat exhaustion. You feel tired, nauseous, headachy, and giddy (dizzy and silly). Your skin is damp and looks muddy or flushed. You may faint.
- Heat stroke. You may have hot dry skin and a high temperature. Or you may feel confused. You may have convulsions or become unconscious. Heat stroke can kill you unless you get emergency medical help.
The Risk of Heat Stress
The risk of heat stress depends on many things including:
- The physical condition of the employees (i.e. diet, obesity, etc.)
- The weather (i.e. temperature, humidity)
- The amount of clothing being worn
- The pace and demands of the job (i.e. speed, weight of objects being lifted, etc.)
- Air movement
- Solar load and sun exposure
How to prevent heat stress:
- Allow new employees a week or two to acclimatize before making them work at 100% capacity
- Do the heaviest work in the coolest time of the day
- Drink before you get thirsty
- Take short breaks more frequently rather than long breaks less frequently
- Rest in a cool, shady spot
- Wear light-colored clothing made of cotton
- consider wearing a cooling vest
If you think someone has heat stroke call emergency services (911). Then help dissipate the heat by moving them to the shade, loosening clothing, and spraying them with cool water. For more information on safety consulting and best practices, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-760-6170.