Safety Update: Stay cool on hot days!

Heat stress occurs when the body generates internal heat and/or absorbs heat from a hot work environment faster than it can be lost. The heat build-up is an increase in the body temperature. Sweating is the natural way your body attempts to cool off. The evaporation is usually an effective way to cool the body. However, if the air is humid and the sweat doesn't evaporate well or if the water lost from your body is not replaced, the stage is set for problems. Muscle cramps, spasms, and excessive sweating usually indicate the first stage of heat stress. Move to a cooler place, drink small sips of water with a little added salt (if you are not on a salt restricted diet) and massage the muscle that is cramping.

Heat Exhaustion results when the loss of fluid and salt from the body reaches the point where some of the body's automatic control systems shut down and the person goes into shock. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are some or all: sweating, clammy, flushed or pale skin, dizziness, weakness, nausea, rapid and shallow breathing, headache, vomiting or fainting.  Lay the person down in a cooler place with the feet raised and tight clothing loosened. Give them sips of cool water. Seek medical aid, especially if there is vomiting or fainting.

Heat Stroke is rarer but very serious. With heat stroke, the body’s cooling system (the ability to sweat) shuts down and the body temperature rapidly rises. Symptoms include: dry, hot skin, strong, fast pulse, very high temperature, confused, strange or angry behavior, chills, nausea, dizziness, unconsciousness. Act immediately. Call 911 and maintain victim’s breathing. Cool victim in a bath or with fans or cold packs. Keep victim lying down with feet raised.

The best plan to avoid heat stress and heat stroke:

  • Allow time to adapt to a hot working environment, gradually increasing your exposure to heat over at least a one-week period.
  • Drink water frequently (ideally, at least 8 ounces of water every 20-30 minutes). Avoid coffee, tea or cola drinks which cause you to pass more water. 
  • Replace body salts (electrolytes) by drinking flavored drinks or water containing salt or by drinking specialty prepared “sports” drinks created precisely for this purpose.
  • Take rest breaks, particularly in a cool location. Rest lowers your internal heat because your muscles aren’t working.
  • Wear personal protective equipment - work clothes made of ‘breathable’ fabrics, hats and sunglasses for outside work.
  • Utilize engineering controls such as fans, ventilators, exhaust systems, air conditioners and heat shields.
  • If cooling the entire working environment is not possible, investigate providing ‘spot’ cooling for workers.

Remember! Too much heat can make people lose their concentration, get tired, grouchy or get cramps, pains, spasms or worse. Heat stress is dangerous but it is also preventable.