Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Hot days bring on a new set of risks for outdoor workers. To prevent the high temperatures from getting employees injured, everyone must remember these three special words: Water, Rest, Shade.

Normally, the body cools itself by sweating, but during times of extreme temperatures and high humidity, perspiration is not enough. If workers neglect to take precautions against the scorching climate like drinking extra water and taking frequent rest breaks in the shade or in an air conditioned building, body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Increased body temperatures can result in:

  • Heat rash – skin irritation from excessive sweating
  • Heat cramps – muscle pains or spasms that happen during heavy exercise
  • Heat exhaustion – an illness that can precede heatstroke; symptoms include heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse
  • Heatstroke – a life-threatening illness in which body temperature may rise above 106° F in minutes; symptoms include dry skin, rapid, strong pulse and dizziness

Exposing yourself to full sunlight can increase heat index values by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  When a worker has taken more than a week off or is new to the job site, they should gradually ease into their duties. Allow extra time for rest breaks, and drink water until becoming acclimated to your surroundings.

When working outdoors during hot days:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Set extra time aside to rest and cool down in the shade.
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
  • Check in with your fellow workers to make sure they are doing OK.
  • Ease in to your first days working in the heat.  It takes time to get used to extreme temperatures.

Taking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death.

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