Keeping Employees Healthy and Safe During Hot Summer Months
Heat illness is the body’s inability to deal with heating and cooling itself. And it can be deadly. Therefore, employers in the energy industry with employees working in a plant or facility where they spend much of their day outside need to pay close attention to the potential signs of heat illness.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) there are preventative measures that individuals and employers can take to reduce the chances of heat illness. Keep employees healthy and safe during hot summer months by making sure to know – and teach your employees – the signs of heat related illnesses.
Heat Stroke is the Most Serious Heat Illness:
The most serious heat illness is heat stroke. It’s recognizable because the body stops sweating and the individual can become delirious, lose consciousness and even convulse. The body temperature typically reaches 106 degrees F or higher and the skin becomes hot and dry. It may also be red or bluish in color. Victims will die if not treated promptly.
Other Heat Related Illnesses and The Signs:
There are other heat illnesses that are important to recognize as well. For instance, heat exhaustion results when someone loses too much fluid through sweating. This is why drinking plenty of water and taking salt tablets is vital. The victim will typically experience weakness, giddiness, nausea, and/or headache. The skin will be clammy, the complexion pale and the body temperature may be slightly above normal.
In addition, heat cramps are painful spasms caused by drinking large quantities of water without replacing lost salt. And heat rash may occur when sweat doesn’t evaporate as in hot, humid environments. This is often known as prickly heat and is commonly seen in babies or small children.
Treating Individuals with Heat Illness:
The first thing to do is to recognize the problem. It is important that everyone be able to recognize the signs of heat illness within themselves and others. To lessen the likelihood of encountering issues, acclimate to the environment slowly, allowing the body to become accustom to the heat.
Next, get prompt medical attention. Immediately get into shade and cool the body as quickly as possible while waiting for emergency help to arrive.
To help limit the likelihood that heat illness will occur, don’t wait to be thirsty and take plenty of breaks. Drink at least one quart of liquid per hour. Avoid soda, alcohol and coffee. Drink water or sports drinks which add much needed sodium back into the body. Be sure to have easily accessible shade and take frequent rests in order to maintain a normal body temperature.
Finally, for employers it is important to develop and implement written safety policies and procedures which include heat training. Educate managers and supervisors on heat illness prevention to protect employees and ask them to train employees. If you don’t have safety policies and training procedures around heat education there are outside consultants who can help you develop these type policies.
Employees should be sure that when they go outside they wear appropriate lightweight clothing along with a hat and sunglasses. And employers should be sure to take the steps necessary to keep employees healthy and safe during the hot summer months.