The rise in temperatures across the nation is right on queue with the White House naming this week Extreme Heat Week. Heat-related illnesses can be deadly with thousands becoming sick every year. Now is the best time to prepare your employees for working outdoors in excessive heat by following a few simple steps.
HEAT-RELATED ILLNESS: KNOW THE SIGNS
It’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness—acting quickly can prevent more serious medical conditions and may even save lives.
• Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating. CALL 911 if a coworker shows signs of heat stroke.
• Heat Exhaustion is also a serious illness. Symptoms include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating. Heat fatigue, and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of too much heat exposure.
If you or a co-worker has symptoms of heat-related illness, tell your supervisor right away. If you can, move the person to a shaded area loosen his/her clothing, give him/her water (a little at a time), and cool him/her down with ice packs or cool water.
TO PREVENT HEAT ILLNESS: WATER. REST. SHADE.
• Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
• Rest in the shade to cool down.
• Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
• Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
• Keep an eye on fellow workers.
• Acclimate – “easy does it” on your first days of work; be sure to get used to the heat and allow yourself to build up a tolerance. Not being used to the heat is a big problem. Many of the people who died from heat stress were either new to working in the heat or returning from a break. If a worker has not worked in hot weather for a week or more, their body needs time to adjust.
WHO IS AFFECTED?
Any worker exposed to hot and humid conditions is at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions, including new workers, temporary workers, or those returning to work after a week or more off. All workers are at risk during a heat wave.
Industries most affected by heat-related illness are: construction; trade, transportation and utilities; agriculture; building, grounds maintenance; landscaping services; and support activities for oil and gas operations.
This is OSHA’s fourth year implementing its Heat-Illness Prevention Campaign. More resources are available on their website in English and Spanish. OSHA also has an app to download to your phone that calculates the heat index and provides recommendations based on your risk level. Check out www.osha.gov/heat for training and other educational resources.