Heat illness – What you need to know
By: Mike Huss, Loss Control Supervisor
Per Cal/OSHA, heat stroke, the most serious health problem for workers in hot environments, is caused by the failure of the body’s internal mechanism to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Victims of heat stroke will die unless treated promptly. Signs include:
Mental confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma;
A body temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; and
Hot, dry skin which may be red, mottled, or bluish.
Heat exhaustion results from loss of fluid through sweating when a worker has failed to drink enough fluids or take in enough salt, or both. The worker with heat exhaustion still sweats, but experiences extreme weakness or fatigue, giddiness, nausea, or headache. Heat cramps, painful spasms of the muscles, are caused when workers drink large quantities of water but fail to replace their bodies’ salt loss. Tired muscles are usually the ones most susceptible to cramps. Fainting (heat syncope) may be a problem when a worker who is not acclimated to a hot environment simply stands still in the heat. Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, may occur in hot, humid environments where sweat is not easily removed from the surface of the skin by evaporation.
Take these four steps to prevent heat illness:
Training - Train all employees and supervisors about heat illness prevention.
Water - Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage them to do so.
Shade - Provide access to shade for at least 5 minutes of rest when an employee believes he/she needs a preventative recovery period. They should not wait until they feel sick to do so.
Planning - Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the heat illness prevention standard.
For more information, please review OSHA’s Occupational Heat Exposure document.