Summer Heat Safety

Heat tends to promote accidents due to slipperiness of sweaty hands, dizziness or the fogging of safety glasses or other problems. You're just not as sharp in extreme heat as you are otherwise. What's the answer? Because it's hot, we shouldn't do anything or try to get the work out? Take the day off? No, the answer is to use your good judgment and take the precautions necessary to reduce the risks associated with heat stress.

In the course of a day's work, you can perspire away as much as 3 gallons of body fluid. More times than not, dehydration and loss of salt occurs from this fluid loss. Try to drink as much water as you lose. Drink water frequently. In hot environments, don't always depend upon thirst to tell you it's time to take a drink of water. In hot environments, you should drink water every 15 or 20 minutes. If you sweat a lot, drink plenty of water. If you choose to take salt tablets or lightly salted water, make sure you have the advice of your physician.

Next, we come to a touchy subject. You are certainly aware that drugs and alcohol are prohibited in the work place. But how about getting bombed the night before, and then trying to work the next day? Alcohol dehydrates your body and it takes a long time to correct the problem. If you work in hot environments, stay away from alcohol.

Safety Tips

  • Encourage workers to drink plenty of water or an electrolyte-replacement drink – about 1 cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty – and to avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks that dehydrate the body.
  • Control the heat source through use of insulation and reflective barriers
  • Exhaust hot air or steam away from the work area
  • Use of air-conditioning
  • Use of air-conditioned rest areas
  • Use of fans to circulate the air
  • Reduce the physical demands of the work by using mechanical equipment
  • Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat production. Good airflow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin.
  • Supervisors look out for early signs of heat-related illness and permit workers to interrupt their work if they become extremely uncomfortable.
  • Consider a worker's physical condition when determining fitness to work in hot environments. Obesity, lack of conditioning, pregnancy, heart conditions and inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.
  • Alternate work and rest periods, with rest periods in a cooler area. Shorter, more frequent work-rest cycles are best.
  • Schedule heavy work for cooler times of the day and use appropriate protective clothing.
  • Avoid foods like proteins that increase body heat production
  • Use additional workers for the job or slow down the pace of the work
  • Make sure everyone understands the signs and symptoms of heat stress

Common-sense precautions, such as dressing properly for the job, include:

  • Wear lightweight clothing which allows moisture to evaporate quickly
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Wear reflective clothing or cooling suits for jobs which require them
  • Use extra caution if you are required to wear clothing on the job which limits evaporation--you could succumb to heat stress much more quickly

There are a number of types of heat stress injuries. Some are annoying but not very serious. Others can quickly lead to life-threatening situations. Knowing what to look out for is important. This is especially true because the more serious heat stress conditions cause the victim to become disoriented and unaware of their condition

Four Stages of Increasing Heat Stress

Know the four stages and symptoms of increasing heat stress so you can recognize them and take the appropriate actions.

  1. The first stage is sunburn, which most people do recognize.
  2. The second stage is heat cramps. The symptoms are painful spasms usually in the muscles of legs and abdomen along with heavy sweating. Anyone suffering from heat cramps should be watched carefully for signs of more serious heat stress. Keep cool and give plenty of water or an electrolyte-replacement drink. If the cramps persist or other symptoms develop, seek medical attention immediately.
  3. The third stage is heat exhaustion. The symptoms are heavy sweating, weakness, and cold clammy skin. Fainting and vomiting are possible. DIAL 911. Keep victim cool. If you suspect heat exhaustion, don't let the victim talk you out of seeking immediate medical attention. The heat exhaustion will affect their ability to exercise good judgment. Until medical help arrives, try to cool the victim and offer sips of cool water as long as the victim is conscious. Immediate medical attention is required. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke.
  4. The fourth stage is heat stroke. The symptoms are high body temperature, hot dry skin, rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness. THIS IS DEADLY - A TRUE EMERGENCY, DIAL 911!!! Until help arrives, try to cool the victim and offer sips of cool water if the victim is conscious.

Recognizing the symptoms of heat stress is very important, particularly since the victim may not realize what is happening.