Preventing Heat Stress
Heat stress occurs when high temperatures combined with heavy physical activity; loss of fluids, fatigue or other medical conditions cause the body to suffer symptoms such as cramping, fainting, exhaustion, heat rash, and/or heat stroke. The most severe cases can result in death. It is the body's reaction to stressing its cooling system. In most cases, the body must acclimate to a hot environment (high external temps and hot ovens, for example) to regulate its cooling function. It can take up to two weeks for the human body to accomplish this adjustment. When necessary, instruct employees to take a break in hot environments, drink some water, and rest in a cooler location for at least a few minutes before resuming work activities.
It is recommended that work environments with high temperatures exhaust hot air and steam production, and/or increase air movement by using fans or air conditioning to enable an employee's physical heat to be dispersed. The harder the body works, the more heat is has to lose. In cases where an employee performs physical work outdoors, activities where sun exposure is present should be scheduled at the coolest times in the day. Work should be performed in the shade during the hottest times of the day, and employees should drink fluids regularly.
First aid treatment for heat rash includes keeping the skin clean and dry; cramping requires loosening of clothing, moving to a cool environment, and consumption of a mineral replacement fluid; however if symptoms are severe or no relief occurs – medical attention is strongly recommended. Fainting, heavy sweating, extremely high body temps, weakness, clumsiness, confusion, and /or blurred vision all require medical attention as soon as possible. Periodically check in or monitor employee activities in high temperature work environments to ensure their safety. Light weight and light colored clothing should be worn in high temperature work environments and in extreme cases, protective apparel. Make sure employees are able to recognize the symptoms of heat stress. It makes sense to include this topic in your joint loss management committee meeting(s) before and during the summer months!