Safety – Working in Hot Conditions

Each year, thousands of workers suffer from symptoms of heat-related illnesses while one the job. Working in certain industries as well as working outside during warmer months increases the potential for a worker to suffer from heat stress, exhaustion, cramps, and even heat stroke. Working in hot environments without preventative measures in place can severely increase the risk of heat illness, but, when appropriate protection methods are incorporated into a worker’s daily routine, heat-related illnesses can be significantly reduced.

Signs & Symptoms

Here are the most common heat-related illnesses:

  • Heat Exhaustion –  Body’s natural response to losing an excessive amount of water and salt, typically through excessive sweating.
    • Symptoms –  Headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirsty, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature, cold moist skin.
    • Treatment – Remove worker from hot area and give cool, clear liquids to drink, remove unnecessary clothing, cool the worker with cold compresses, encourage frequent sips of water, assess workers need for professional medical attention. Call 911 immediately for a medical emergency.
  • Heat Stroke – Occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature.
    • Symptoms – confusion, slurred speech, unconsciousness, seizures, hot dry skin, high body temperature, rapid heart rate.
    • Treatment – Seek professional medical treatment immediately, place worker in a shady, cool area and remove outer clothing, wet  the workers skin, and increase air movement in the area, replace fluids as soon as possible. Call 911 immediately for a medical emergency.
  • Heat Cramp – Painful, involuntay muscle spasms that usually occur during heavy activity in hot environments. 
    • Treatment – Rest briefly and cool down, drink clear juice or electrolyte-containing sports drinks, massage/stretch the affected muscle group gently, don’t resume strenuous activity for several hours.

Prevention Methods

Here are some tips to help prevent heat-related illnesses at work:

  • Monitor the weather and check the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool App for geo-based recommendations and precautionary methods.
  • Be familiar with the company’s Heat Illness Prevention Plan.
  • Slowly build up tolerance to the heat to become properly acclimated to the work environment (this can take up to two weeks).
  • Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas; allow the body to cool down.
  • Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day. 
  • Consume plenty of water throughout the day; 1 cup every 20 minutes is recommended by OSHA.
  • Avoid caffeine & alcoholic beverages (some types of beverages make the body lost water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).
  • Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments. 
  • Continuously monitor yourself and others for signs of heat illness. 
  • Wear loose-fitting, light clothing that will serve as a shield from the sun’s rays.

Ameri-Force is dedicated to employee safety and regulatory compliance. Through OSHA compliant health and safety programs, training, and consulting services, Ameri-Force creates safer work environments. Our national networks of qualified safety consultants study work environments to ensure their compliance with federal, state and local regulations. We identify sources of non-compliance and potential hazards, and suggest control strategies.

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