With summer fast approaching, employers need to remind workers of the hazard due to heat stress, and implement controls to prevent the risk of heat related illness. Heat Stress is a group of conditions due to overexposure to, or overexertion in, excess environmental temperature. This encompasses heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaust, and heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include weakness, fainting, headache, difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting and it is difficult to continue working. It is important to get a worker suffering from heat exhaustion some medical aid, move to shade, loosen clothing and drink plenty of cool water. It is important to intervene immediately at the first signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke may occur.
Heat stroke is a severe and often fatal illness produced by exposure to excessively high temperatures, especially when accompanied by marked exertion. Some symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, convulsions, and unconsciousness. Your body stops sweating because it has used up all its water and salt and your body can no longer cool itself down. This results in dangerously high body temperature which can lead to death. If a workers has signs of heat stroke call 911 immediately, and take aggressive steps to cool the worker down by immersing in cool water, a cool shower or wetting down with a hose, wrap the worker in cool wet sheets and fan rapidly.
The first step in heat stress prevention is to monitor the workplace, appoint someone to check the temperature and humidex regularly and take the appropriate response. The following is a general guideline:
Low: 30-37 – Alert workers to potential heat stress and ensure access to water
Medium: 38-39 – Reduce physical activity (slower pace, double up breaks) and drink a cup of water every 20-30 minutes.
Moderate: 40-42 – Reduce physical activity further and drink a cup of water every 15-20 minutes.
High: 43-44 – Ensure sufficient rest and recovery time, severely curtail physical activity and drink a cup of water every 10-15 minutes.
Extreme: 45 or over – It is hazardous to continue physical activity.
Heat affects everyone differently, and those with pre-existing medical conditions or on medication may be more susceptible to heat related illness. Never ignore any signs or symptoms of heat stress. Immediately get worker first aid treatment and medical care when necessary.
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