By: Taylor Schechter, HSE Manager
July 23, 2020
Whether you are a construction worker on the job, or out to soak up the sun on your stay-cation or summer vacation (if you dare travel during a pandemic), everyone is at risk for heat illnesses. Extreme heat can cause a variety of injuries and illnesses from sunburn to heat stroke. To those whose professions are outside, it can be a risk. Every year, thousands of workers become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) developed a three-word campaign in 2011 to educate on the dangers of working in the heat: Water. Rest. Shade. The good news is that there are several precautions you can take to keep yourself, your coworkers, and your family safe during these high temperatures.
Heat Syncope – What it is?
Heat syncope, or fainting, is a mild form of heat illness that often results from physical exertion when it is hot. According to the National Safety Council, heat syncope occurs when your body, in an effort to cool itself, causes the blood vessels to dilate to such an extent that blood flow to the brain is reduced. Dehydration usually contributes greatly to this illness.
Symptoms – fainting, dizziness, headache, increased pulse, nausea, and vomiting.
Treatment – sit the affected person in a cool area, elevate their feet, drink fluids, and refrain from further physical activity.
Heat Exhaustion – What it is?
Heat exhaustion is the body’s rapid response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating.
Symptoms – headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating.
Treatment – place them in a cool, shady area, give them plenty of water to drink, cool them down with ice packs, and remain out of the sun and the heat for the rest of the day.
Heat Stroke – What it is?
Heat Stroke is the most serious form of heat-related illness. It happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat.
Symptoms – confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death, call 911 immediately.
Treatment – while waiting for an emergency response team, place the affected person in a cool area, fan air on them, and place ice packs in their armpits for maximum cooling. Provide the person with water and do not leave them alone until help arrives.
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Drink at least 8 oz. of fluid every half hour.
- Avoid liquids that contain alcohol, caffeine, or large amounts of sugar.
- Check in with a work buddy throughout the day about how you are feeling and do the same for your buddy.
- Wear lightweight clothing – cotton allows skin to breathe and absorbs sweat.
- Listen to local weather forecasts to be aware of upcoming temperature rises.
- Take frequent breaks in cool shady areas.
- Wear sunscreen.
Awareness is vital to preventing heat-related illnesses. At Rutkoski Fencing, Inc. (RFI), a safe and qualified contractor providing high-security fencing, sound barrier, and other commercial fencing and gate solutions, we take safety seriously. “Tailboard Talks”, or onsite morning meetings, are used by foreman and construction managers before work begins to discuss safety hazards, including heat related illness. To aid in prevention, every member of our field team receives a summer safety kit that keeps them healthy during extreme heat. The kits include sunscreen, cooling towels and neck gaiters, and hard hat sweat bands. At our worksites, RFI teams are ready to take on each day with cases of water, ice, electrolyte beverages, sunglasses, and air-conditioned spaces to cool down. You can find additional resources to keep employees safe at osha.gov.
By staying educated and recognizing symptoms early, we can all work safely or have fun in the sun without any worry.
Enjoy your summer!