Heat Stress / Emergencies. Every year, thousands of workers become sick and die from heat exposure on the job. These illnesses and deaths are preventable. Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are 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, are in poor physical condition, are older, or if they have heart disease, high blood pressure, or are taking certain medications.
What is heat illness? The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.
Can heat illness be prevented? OSHA recommends three words to help: water, rest, and shade. Drinking water often, taking breaks, and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness. You should include these prevention steps in work site training and plans. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do!
Some of the signs you may notice if your body is getting too hot?
- Headache, dizziness, or fainting
- Weakness and wet skin
- Irritability or confusion
- Thirst, nausea, or vomiting
A 41-year-old, male laborer died from heat stroke one day after being taken to the hospital. The laborer was working on an addition to a factory sawing boards to make concrete forms. He apparently collapsed beside his vehicle. When EMS arrived, they recorded the laborer’s body temperature as 107 degrees F. The laborer was transported to a local hospital where he died the next day with an internal body temperature of 108 degrees F. Death was listed by the coroner as due to heat stroke.