Three Tips to Prevent Heat Stress and Heat-induced Illnesses on a Jobsite

Safety First, Always First.

With summer upon us and temperatures rising, it is important to understand the risk factors of heat stress and take precautions to avoid it and other heat-induced illnesses.

Heat stress generally occurs when spending long periods of time outside in excessive heat, and symptoms typically include physical exhaustion, cramping, rashes and dehydration. In the most severe cases, heat stroke may occur, which can result in confusion, irrational behavior, loss of consciousness and even death.

“Heat stress is certainly something we take seriously,” says Jamie Absher, Safety Specialist at TP Mechanical. “Our employees are outside on jobsites daily during the warmer months, and their health and safety is our foremost priority.”

There are a variety of factors that put anyone at a higher risk of experiencing heat stress, including:

  • High temperatures and humidity
  • Direct sun exposure
  • Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  • Physical exertion
  • Limited air movement
  • Bulky or heavy personal protective equipment or clothing
  • Radiant heat sources (vehicle and equipment engines, hot manufacturing processes, etc.)
  • Certain medications (e.g., diuretics, antihypertensives and anticholinergics)
  • Physical conditioning and health conditions (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular disease, influenza, etc.)
  • Lack of recent heat exposure (not acclimatized)
  • Age of 65 or higher

To mitigate the above risk factors and prevent heat stress, here are three strategies to employ on your jobsite:

  1. Implement a heat safety plan. It is important to train workers on the risk factors, symptoms and health effects of heat stress, as well has how to respond to a heat illness incident. Establishing someone as a heat safety leader on the jobsite to manage the heat safety plan and monitor workers is another way to be proactive. When possible, it is also beneficial to utilize modified work schedules to schedule more physically demanding and non-essential outdoor work during cooler times of the day.
  2. Stay hydrated. NIOSH recommends that for moderate activity in moderate conditions, each worker should drink one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Keep fluids – especially water – readily available to workers on the jobsite. Employers should also consider providing urine color charts near toilet facilities so workers can monitor their hydration level throughout the day.
  3. Keep cool. Our bodies naturally produce heat, even during rest, so being sure to cool off during physical exertion is key to avoiding heat stress. Regular breaks should be taken in air conditioned or shaded, breezy areas. Avoiding non-essential bulky or heavy clothing and equipment can also reduce the risk for heat stress, and employers should consider providing cold packs or cooling vests to workers on particularly hot days.

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Keep Your Cool in Hot Weather

Presented by TP Mechanical | Provided by HORAN

July and August are typically the hottest time of the year in most areas of the United States, and these months are often packed with long days at fairs and festivals, family vacations and numerous trips to the pool or lake. While you’re out having fun in the sun, watch for signs of heat illness.

bigstock-Heat-761281According to the National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading weather-related causes of death in the United States, with men more susceptible than women to heat illness because they sweat more. The elderly and children are also at higher risk if they are not careful in the sun.

Sweating is one of the body’s key reactions to heat, but if you lose fluid from sweat that isn’t replaced by drinking enough water, your body temperature can spike dangerously. When the temperature and humidity both rise, your body’s ability to cool itself is also affected because sweat can’t evaporate fast enough to cool your body.

Heat illness occurs along a spectrum, ranging from heat cramps and fainting to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include headache, dizziness, cramping, excessive sweating, pale and clammy skin, and rapid but weak pulse. If someone is suffering heat exhaustion, get him or her out of direct sunlight so he or she can cool down and rehydrate.

Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes so hot it loses its ability to cool itself. Heat stroke is typified by headache, dizziness, confusion, hot and dry skin, throbbing pulse, shallow but rapid breathing, and sometimes unconsciousness. If someone is suffering heat stroke, get medical assistance immediately.

Because summertime includes many fun activities out of doors, you don’t want to miss out. Follow these guidelines to stay cool and safe in the sun:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty, and limit intake of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages.
  • Wear a hat and lightweight clothing, preferably cotton.
  • Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn, which interferes with the body’s cooling mechanism.
  • Find shade or an air-conditioned building where you can take a break from the heat, especially during midday.
  • Never leave a child unattended in a vehicle, even with the windows open.
  • Let your body acclimate to the heat before attempting vigorous exercise.