Beat the Heat at Work
Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager, Arcata, CA
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)
“More than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but workers in every field are susceptible. ” – Occupational Safety and Health Administration
The summer months can be difficult for some workers and it’s important to remain aware of heat-related dangers in the workplace. Please share the following tips and general information to help raise awareness of heat-related illness in the workplace this summer.
What is Heat-Related Illness? There are three types of heat-related illnesses:
- Heat cramps can occur due to loss of large amounts of salt and water through exertion. Remember to consume plenty of fluids and electrolytes when working in heat.
- Heat exhaustion occurs when the body “loses large amounts of water and salt through excessive sweating, particularly through hard physical labor or exercise. This loss of essential fluids can disturb circulation and interfere with brain function. Individuals who have heart, lung, or kidney problems or are on low-sodium diets may be particularly susceptible to heat exhaustion.” as described by WebMD.
- Heat stroke is a serious illness that occurs when the “body suffers from long, intense exposure to heat and loses its ability to cool itself. In prolonged, extreme heat, the part of the brain that normally regulates body temperature malfunctions. There is a decreases in the body’s ability to sweat and, therefore, cool down. Those who have certain medical conditions that decrease the body’s ability to sweat — such as scleroderma or cystic fibrosis — may be at greater risk of developing heat stroke.” as described by WebMD.
The most common signs and symptoms of heat related illness include:
- Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
- Muscle or abdominal cramps
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Pale skin
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid heartbeat
5 Quick Tips to avoid Heat-Related Illness from the Red Cross:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes.
- If possible, wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
Review OSHA’s “Water. Rest. Shade.” campaign:
Employers must protect workers from known safety workplace hazards, including extreme heat. OSHA suggests employers provide a heat illness prevention program. The following suggestions are directly from OSHA’s “Water. Rest. Shade.” campaign:
1. Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
2. Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
3. Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
4. Monitor workers for signs of illness
Hopefully this information provides a general idea of heat safety in the work place. Be sure to share these tips with your co-workers or employees. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.
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