Beating the Heat

Health and Safety Beating the Heat When the mercury rises, will you be ready? asks Sara Garity By Sara GarityBy Joan Bittel> June/July 2002 Summer can be very hot on the ramp. Combined with the humidity, the temperature can reach the...


MAKING A DIFFERENCE
When the weather gets warmer, working conditions heat up. Heat stress is a serious medical condition that can cause severe health risks if not taken seriously. You need to listen to your own body. Are you able to recognize the signs of heat stress? Will you know what to do if someone becomes ill? Knowing the answers to these questions may save a life. What if it's your own?

CONDITION & SYMPTOMS:

  • Heat Rash (Prickly heat): Occurs when sweat is not removed from the skin. Skin appears red and itchy.
  • Heat Syncope (Fainting): Occurs when standing for long periods of time.
  • Heat Cramps: Occurs abruptly like a "Charlie horse", may last for extended periods.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Occurs when there is a loss of fluid. Person feels weakness or fatigue, giddiness, nausea, or headache. Skin may become clammy or moist, complexion becomes pale or flushed.
  • Heat Stroke: Occurs when internal temperature mechanism fails. Person usually stops sweating and experiences mental confusion, delirium, and loss of consciousness. Body temperature reaches 106 degrees Fahrenheit.

TREATMENT:

  • Heat Rash (Prickly heat): Rest in a cool place and allow the skin to dry.
  • Heat Syncope (Fainting): Lying down. (Can be prevented by moving around while working.)
  • Heat Cramps: Cramps are caused by loss of electrolytes. Drink a sports-type drink with electrolytes.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Rest in a cool place and drink electrolyte liquids.
  • Heat Stroke: Call medical help. Move to cool area. Soak clothes with cool water. Fan vigorously.

PREVENTION IS KEY

  1. Drink at least 2 liters of water a day, more if sweating.
  2. Acclimation: Introduce new workers gradually. A body needs time to learn to lose heat efficiently.
  3. Provide shade and air movement (fans): Shade reduces radiant heat and fans increase sweat evaporation.
  4. Schedule hot jobs for cooler parts of the day.
  5. Provide cool rest areas where possible: These enable a rapid return of core temperature to normal. Air conditioning can lower both temperature and humidity.
  6. Wear light clothing and sun protection: Heavy clothing prevents body heat from evaporating.
  7. Diet: Eat appropriately. Too much salt can cause dehydration. Avoid alcohol. Drink plenty of liquid electrolytes.
  8. Be careful: Excessive heat may reduce work capacity and efficiency.

    Source: Queensland Workplace Health & Safety - www.whs.qld.gov.au

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