Whether working or playing, hot weather is upon us. STOP and take a minute to PLAN for working and playing in the heat safely.
Heat stress and/or heat illness is a serious problem during the summer months. If you watch or read the news it’s common to see medical emergencies and fatalities related to them. Please be careful out in the heat.
- Awareness of the problem is the first step toward prevention! Take time to familiarize yourself.
- It takes a solid week of working in the heat to become acclimatized and a few days to lose it!
- Force fluids. Plain water is best. Add some electrolytes (especially if you are not acclimatized) suited for this purpose.
- Alcohol, salt and caffeine will work AGAINST you so it’s best to avoid these or at least limit them to cooler parts of the day. This includes many “energy” drinks.
- Don’t wait until you are dehydrated before starting drinking fluids.
- Icy cold fluids can trick the body into thinking your core body temperature is lower than it really is. So sip on the ice cold beverages for taste and use cool (not icy) water for forcing fluid intake.
- If you are sick or have medical conditions or are otherwise predisposed with other stresses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, colds, flu, pregnancy, overweight, etc., you are also at higher risk and need to adjust your activities accordingly.
- Don’t let your core temperature get out of control. Take frequent breaks in the shade to help keep your core body temperature normal. Force fluids during these breaks.
- Monitoring for heat stress conditions is helpful, and required for work.
- Envirocon has a number of methods for monitoring for heat stress. The most important and readily available one (whether at work or play) is monitoring rested pulse rate. An individual who has been seated for about five minutes should not have a pulse rate above 110. If someone is approaching this type of pulse rate they are showing early signs of stress and must be watched carefully. If greater than 110, rehab (resting in the shade/shelter and drinking fluids until pulse returns to normal) is mandatory at work.
- Headaches, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, nausea, or vomiting are signs that you need to get out of the sun and heat. Get into shelter or at least into the shade and rest to cool down. Don’t wait for things to get out of control.
- Help out buddies, friends or relatives if they show symptoms. Remember that CONFUSION is one of the early symptoms of heat stress and will limit a person’s ability to self-rescue.
- HEAT STROKE IS A TRUE MEDICAL EMERGENCY!
- Symptoms include HOT/RED/ DRY SKIN (normal sweating may have stopped in these cases), FAINTING/PASSING OUT, RAPID PULSE, a POUNDING HEADACHE, COLLAPSE, SEIZURES, MAY BE SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE.
- The simplest and most important things to do at this point are to CALL 911 and get the victim out of the heat. First aid providers should know that cooling the body core temperature is of critical importance. Begin cooling the individual as best you can. Pouring water on the individual, cold compresses on the back of the neck, under the arms, or on the groin are examples.
The information above was taken from web sites with a lot more information on this important topic. Health and Safety Officers in particular should check these out and add to your favorites.
- NOAA has a number of weather-related web monitoring pages. Heat stress can be found at: http://www.noaawatch.gov/themes/heat.php
- There are also links to other important topics such as: FIRE WEATHER, EARTHQUAKES, AIR QUALITY, FLOODING, and SEVERE WEATHER
- OSHA has a web site dedicated to this topic and contains numerous resources for information and training at: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/edresources.html
- The OSHA Quick Card in particular has some excellent, briefing information at: http://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3154.pdf