The symptoms of heat stress disorders are very slow to start, but increase in intensity if precautions are not taken. The onset of the initial symptoms are mild and usually involve headaches, thirst, tiredness and weakness. Heat stress can move to heat stroke, a life-threatening medical emergency, quickly when the body's natural cooling system breaks down and causes the body core temperature to rise and overheat the brain. Some of the symptoms of heat stroke are immense thirst, severe headaches, disorientation, dry/hot skin (no sweating) and possibly collapse.
The following ideas may aid in combating heat stress disorders:
1. Employees accustomed to working in the heat are better candidates for job assignments where heat stress disorders may occur.
2. Until employees acclimate to the high temperatures, allow them for short frequent breaks to cool down.
3. If heat is affecting employees, it’s a good idea to rotate employees job tasks from the heat exposure area to a non-heat exposure area on a regular basis to help in avoiding heat stress symptoms.
4. Employees should be encouraged to drink plenty of fluids (water, Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) to replace electrolytes. Water is actually the best choice. Employees should not drink any carbonated beverages (Coke, Pepsi, Energy drinks, etc.) as these only increase dehydration and give a false sense of being properly hydrated. Also, the use of alcohol the evening before the work shift, can lead to dehydration even before heat exposure.
We need to keep an eye on each other and if an employee appears to be suffering from heat stress disorder, remove him or her from the heat and provide a cool, shaded place to rest and provide them with plenty of water. If the employee is disoriented or non-responsive, call for medical attention immediately. (911 in most areas) The goal is to recognize the hazards and symptoms of heat stress disorders and stop them before they occur. Remember, there is no better cure than prevention.
As always, if you are having to take extra breaks due to the extreme heat, you must notify your lead supervisor who in turn must contact your Superintendent.
Should you have any questions regarding heat related stress, you are encouraged to call our Safety Director, Peter Graham at (847) 417-1689.
Have a Safe Day!