How to Recognize Heat Illnesses
As the summer progresses, employers need to remember how dangerous hot and humid temperatures can be. Working outside in 90-degree weather without proper protection can cause discomfort, heat stress, or even deadly heatstroke.
Symptoms of heat stress range widely:
- Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. In high humidity, the sweat does not evaporate quickly from your skin’s surface. The clothing rubs will rub against the wet skin, causing irritation that can result in a rash.
- Heat cramps are involuntary muscle spasms within the large muscles of your body. These typically occur in the thigh, core, and arm muscles.
- Heat syncope is a fainting or dizziness episode that can occur due to dehydration or lack of acclimation.
- Heat exhaustion is the body’s response t loss of water and salt, usually due to excessive sweating. Symptoms include heavy sweating; extreme weakness or fatigue; dizziness; clammy, moist skin; muscle cramps; elevated temperature, and fast, shallow breathing.
- Heatstroke is a medical emergency. As the body temperature rises, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body cannot cool down and control its temperature. Beware! This severe reaction can happen quickly – the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees within ten to fifteen minutes! Without emergency treatment, heatstroke can cause death or permanent disability. Symptoms of heatstroke include hot, dry skin; profuse sweating; hallucinations; throbbing headache; high body temperature; confusion or dizziness; and slurred speech.
If you notice that you’re starting to experience any of these symptoms, the first thing you need to do is take a break. Move to a cool, shaded area and drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free liquids. If it’s possible, take a cool shower or dip an article of clothing in cold water and place it on your body. If you are suffering from heat rash, DO NOT apply wet clothing. Instead, dry off and remain in a cool area until the sweating ceases. Resume work only after your body has cooled to a normal temperature.
Employers need to keep a close eye on workers – especially in the heat. When employees are subjected to conditions that could induce heat stress, employers need a successful heat stress program in place. OSHA has many resources to help create and develop heat illness prevention plans, but an Emilcott favorite is the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App.
The OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety App is a great resource to help employers and employees plan outdoor activities based on the heat. It can be downloaded onto any smart device and features:
• Area-specific heat indexes and associated risk levels
• Precautionary recommendations
• Hourly forecasts
• And more!
Emilcott’s team of professionals includes skilled Health and Safety Officers with experience in construction and hazardous waste sites. If you would like your current program evaluated or need help preparing your workforce for possible heat hazards, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 973-538-1110.