As summer approaches and the days get longer, the dangers of working outside during hot weather also increase. Knowing how to work safely in hot weather can help prevent heat stress injuries and heat stroke. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), heat stroke is the most severe heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. The body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes and heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided. Other heat-related disorders include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash.
Heat Illness: Symptoms and Prevention
Heat stroke occurs when the body no longer sweats and body temperature reaches dangerous levels. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Dry, hot reddish skin and lack of sweating
- High body temperature
- Strong, rapid pulse
- Slurred speech
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to the loss of water and salt, typically through sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Excessive sweating
- Weakness or fatigue
- Dizziness and/or confusion
- Clammy skin
- Muscle cramps
- Flushed complexion
Heat cramps are painful cramps in the body’s muscles due to low salt levels and are typically caused by excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat cramps include:
- Muscle pain is usually in the abdomen, arm, or legs.
- Muscle spasms are usually in the abdomen, arm, or legs.
Heat Rash is an irritation of the skin caused by excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat rash include:
- Red cluster of pimples or small blisters
- Usually on the neck and upper chest, groin area, under the breasts, and in elbow creases.
Ten Hot Weather Safety Tips:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of fluids; drink about 16 ounces before starting and 5 to 7 ounces every 15 or 20 minutes.
- Avoid dehydrating liquids: Alcohol, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks can hurt more than help.
- Wear protective clothing: Lightweight, light-colored and loose-fitting clothing helps protect against heat. Change clothing if it gets completely saturated.
- Pace yourself: Slow down and work at an even pace. Know your own limits and ability to work safely in the heat.
- Schedule frequent breaks: Take time for rest periods and water breaks in a shaded or air-conditioned area.
- Use a damp rag: Wipe your face or put it around your neck.
- Avoid getting sunburn: Use sunscreen and wear a hat if working outside.
- Be alert to signs of heat-related illness: Know what to look for and check on other workers at high risk.
- Avoid direct sun: Find shade or block out the sun if possible.
- Eat smaller meals: Eat fruits high in fiber and natural juice. Avoid high protein foods.