May 25 2023

Preventing Heat Illness

Summer temperatures and humidity are here.  If you haven’t already, now is the time to ensure your heat illness prevention program is up to date and implemented.  Your supervisors and employees need to have adequate training on the hazards leading to heat stress and how to prevent heat illness.

If you don’t have a heat illness prevention program, contact us and we can help you establish one specific to your company’s needs.

OSHA says, “Most outdoor fatalities, 50% to 70%, occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. The process of building tolerance is called heat acclimatization. Lack of acclimatization represents a major risk factor for fatal outcomes.”

Heat exhaustion is a serious illness resulting from exposure to hot, humid conditions, and it’s often accompanied by dehydration. Without swift intervention, heat exhaustion can progress into heat stroke, which can have serious implications on vital organs and even result in death.

This is a serious issue that claims employee lives every year as shown in the chart below from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

 

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In fact, under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards - and extreme heat is considered a safety hazard. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program. 

Please make this a priority as we are leading tino the hottest months of the year. 

Signs of Heat Exhaustion include:

  • Confusion
  • Dark colored urine
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Pale skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Elevated body-core temperatures.

Identifying and Treating Heat Exhaustion

If you, or anyone else, have symptoms of heat exhaustion, it's essential to remove excess clothing and immediately get out of the heat, preferably in an air-conditioned room. If you can't get inside, try to find the nearest cool and shady place. If the core temperature is elevated use ice bags or fans to help with cooling. If such measures fail to provide relief within 15 minutes, seek emergency medical help, because untreated heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Remember, after you have recovered from heat exhaustion, you will likely be more sensitive to high temperatures during the following weeks or months.

Working In the Heat

If you have to work outside in the heat, here are a few preventative measures to keep you safe for heat illness:

  • Consume 17 to 20 fl. oz. of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise and strenuous work.
  • Continue to drink water every 15 minutes - even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Heat acclimatization (adapted to exercising in the heat)
  • Do not wear excessive or dark-colored clothing.
  • Monitor your urine color (clear to light yellow is preferred).
  • Make sure to maintain a less than 2% body-weight change.

If you need help protecting your employees, please contact us. As an Athletic Trainer who specializes in the Workplace, I am a uniquely qualified resource.

Be safe out there, and enjoy these summer days! 

 

Beth Goodwin

Athletic Trainer