How to Get Ahead with Heat Stress and Maintain Safety
After months of stay-at-home orders, businesses are finally starting to reopen – just as we prepare to face the dog days of summer. With construction sites and outdoor work resuming, it is important to remind your employees about the impacts of heat stress and how to maintain safety when working in the heat.
What is heat stress?
Heat stress is a medical condition that occurs when the body is under stress due to the inability to properly regulate its temperature in a hot environment. This can occur when working outside in the heat or in hot, humid workspaces at any time of the year. Most incidents of heat stress occur during the summer months, so now is the time to show your employees how to stay safe and reduce the possibility of heat stress.
Symptoms of heat stress
One of the early signs of heat stress can be a heat rash, which are small red bumps that cause severe itching. It can also cause heat edema, which is swelling that often occurs in the ankles, as well as muscle cramps and pain in the arms or legs. Additional symptoms include difficulty concentrating and fainting due to dehydration.
Heat stress can develop into heat exhaustion over time. This is a serious health condition that is caused when the body is unable to cool down after being exposed to excessive heat. Heat exhaustion is often accompanied by clammy, sweaty skin, high body temperatures (over 38 degrees Celsius), weakness, low blood pressure, nausea, extreme thirst, heavy breathing, and blurred vision.
However, the worst impact of heat stress is a heat stroke, which is also a breakdown of the body’s ability to remain cool. However, heat strokes can also cause irreparable damage to the body’s organs and long-term mobility. Heat strokes typically involve body temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius, rapid heartbeat, headaches, fainting, muscle weakness, and heavy sweating.
One of the most important things you can do to help prevent heat stress is to monitor the length of time that your employees remain in extreme heat temperatures. Employees who work in the heat should take short, frequent breaks in a cool area to help regulate their body temperature. You should also make sure they have access to cool drinks regularly (preferably water or other drinks with electrolytes).
When your employees exhibit symptoms of heat stress, it’s important to take action immediately. The employee should go into an air-conditioned area and lie down. Encourage the employee to remove belts and any other restrictive clothing, drink beverages with electrolytes, and massage any muscles that are painful or weak.
If their symptoms become more severe, such as passing out, high body temperature, nausea, or vomiting, call an ambulance immediately.
Tips to stay ahead of the curve
- Train your managers about heat stress and make sure they know the signs to watch for.
- Educate your employees about the dangers of heat stress and how to protect themselves.
- Make sure the workplace has shaded work areas and air-conditioned rest areas for employees to take a short break if they get too hot.
- Keep a water cooler at the work site. Make sure there is an ample supply of cool drinks.
- Plan for your employees to take short, frequent breaks so they are not exposed to extreme temperatures for prolonged periods of time.
- Use the buddy system. Your employees should work in groups or pairs so that someone will always be nearby in case an employee experiences symptoms of heat stress.
Contact TeksMed Today
If heat safety is a large concern for your team, our occupational disability program WorkAbility is the perfect solution. For more information, contact TeksMed today.