Heat stress is a buildup of body heat generated either internally by muscle use or externally by the environment. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke result when the body is overwhelmed by heat. As the heat increases, body temperature and the heart rate rise painlessly. An increase in body temperature of two degrees Fahrenheit can affect mental functioning. A five-degree Fahrenheit increase can result in serious illness or death. During hot weather, heat illness may be an underlying cause of other types of injuries, such as heart attacks, falls, and equipment accidents.
The most serious heat-related illness is heat stroke. The symptoms are confusion, irrational behavior, convulsions; these can result in coma and death. While over 20% of heat stroke victims die regardless of health or age, children seem to be more susceptible to heat strain than adults. In some cases, the side effects of heat stroke can be varying degrees of brain and kidney damage.
Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
- Headache, dizziness, or fainting;
- Weakness and wet skin;
- Irritability or confusion; and
- Thirst, nausea, or vomiting.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke:
- May be confused, unable to think clearly, pass out, collapse, or have seizures (fits); and
- May stop sweating
To Prevent Heat Illness:
- Establish a complete heat illness prevention program;
- Provide training about the hazards leading to heat stress and how to prevent them;
- Provide cool water to workers close to the work area;
- At least one pint of water per hour;
- Modify work schedules and arrange frequent rest periods with water breaks in shaded or air- conditioned areas;
- Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for workers new to the heat or those that have been away from work to adapt to working in the heat (acclimatization);
- Have a responsible person to monitor conditions and protect workers at risk of heat stress; and
- Consider protective clothing that provides cooling.
How to Protect Workers:
- Know signs/symptoms of heat illnesses; monitor yourself and use a buddy system;
- Block out direct sun and other heat sources;
- Drink plenty of fluids. Drink often and BEFORE you are thirsty;
- Drink water every 15 minutes;
- Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine; and
- Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes.
What to Do When a Worker Is Ill:
- Call a supervisor for help. If the supervisor is not available, call 911;
- Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives;
- Move the worker to a cooler/shaded area;
- Remove outer clothing;
- Fan and mist the worker with water and apply ice (ice bags or ice towels); and
- Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink.
IF THE WORKER IS NOT ALERT or seems confused, this may be a heat stroke. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY and apply ice as soon as possible.
Take heat stress seriously. Know the signs and symptoms of heat stress. Have a plan to get the proper medical attention for any individual displaying symptoms of heat stress. Dealing with heat stroke especially may mean the difference between life and death.
GET OFF YOUR FEET IN THE HEAT…DRINK WATER AND TAKE A SEAT!!
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