If the past week has proven anything it is that high temperatures and blistering heat can seemingly come out of nowhere. The important thing is to know how to recognize the signs of heat illness and how to prevent it from happening all together.
The Trillium Construction Safety Committee came up with a guide on how to recognize the different forms of heat illnesses and how to treat and even prevent them from occurring. Although these types of instances are typically more prevalent in individuals who work outside, everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat illness as they can effect a variety of individuals in many varying occupations and circumstances.
Heat stress is commonly associated with warm weather. It’s true that warm weather increases the number of heat-stress injuries and illnesses. Warm weather isn’t the only cause of heat stress. Heat stress can occur any time the surrounding temperature is elevated. Even if the weather is cool, you may work in warm areas, indoors or out. Be alert for conditions which could cause heat stress and take precautions to prevent it. Six main factors are involved in causing heat stress including temperature, humidity, movement of air, radiant temperature of the surroundings, clothing, and physical activity.
Common-sense precautions, such as dressing properly for the job, include wearing lightweight clothing which allows moisture to evaporate quickly; wearing reflective clothing or cooling suits for jobs which require them; and using extra caution if you are required to wear clothing on the job which limits evaporation–you could succumb to heat stress much more quickly.
The major heat stress injuries and illnesses are described here:
- Heat Rash is caused by a hot, humid environment and plugged sweat glands. It is a bumpy red rash which itches severely. It is not life-threatening but is very annoying. Dry clothes that help sweat evaporate will reduce the chance of heat rash. Washing regularly and keeping the skin clean and dry will help prevent heat rash.
- Heat Cramps are painful muscle cramps caused by a loss of body salt through excessive sweating. To help prevent heat cramps, drink plenty of non-alcoholic, caffeine-free fluids while working in a hot environment. Check with your doctor about the use of salt tablets. They may be recommended in some cases. Anyone suffering from heat cramps should be watched carefully for signs of more serious heat stress. If the cramps persist or other symptoms develop, seek medical attention immediately.
- Heat Syncope (pronounced “sin-co-pay”) is sudden fainting caused by a reduced blood flow to the head. The victim’s skin will be cool and moist and their pulse will be weak. Immediate medical attention is needed in the event of syncope.
- Heat Exhaustion results from inadequate salt and water intake and is a sign the body’s cooling system is not working properly. You will sweat heavily, your skin will be cool and moist, your pulse weak, and you will seem tired, confused, clumsy, irritable or upset, they may breathe rapidly–even pant–and their vision may be blurred. You may strongly argue that you are okay even with these obvious symptoms. If you suspect heat exhaustion, don’t talk yourself out of seeking immediate medical attention. The heat exhaustion will affect your ability to exercise good judgment. Until medical help arrives, try to cool the yourself and take sips of cool water until medical help arrives. Immediate medical attention is required. Heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke.
- Heat Stroke is the deadliest of all heat stress conditions. It occurs when the body’s cooling mechanism has shut down after extreme loss of salt and fluids. The body temperature will rise, your skin will be hot, red, and dry, pulse fast, and you may have headache or dizziness. You will probably be weak, confused, and upset. Later stages of heat stroke cause a loss of consciousness and may lead to convulsions. In the event of heat stroke, seek immediate medical attention. Until help arrives, try to cool yourself and take sips of cool water.
Constant hydration is the key to avoiding heat illness. Make sure whether you are on the job or off the job to drink plenty of water day and night. A person should drink at minimum 8 ounces of water per hour. DO NOT wait until you are thirsty to drink water, it might be too late to avoid heat illness.
Being aware of Heat Illness, it’s warning signs and ways to prevent it can go a long way in keeping you and your co-workers safe this Summer season.
The Trillium brand of companies is privately owned by René Poch and provides more than 30 years of industry leading recruitment and staffing services through its divisions including: Trillium Staffing, Trillium Construction Services, Trillium Driver Solutions, Trillium Marine, Trillium Technical, Trillium Environmental, and Trillium Techs. With approximately 90 offices nationwide and nearly 400 internal recruitment professionals, the Trillium brand is proud to be recognized by Staffing Industry Analysts as a Top 25 Largest Industrial Staffing Firm in the U.S., a Top 100 Largest Staffing Firm in the U.S., a Top 100 Fastest Growing Staffing Firm in the U.S., and a 2015 winner of National Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. For more information please visit www.trilliumstaffing.com.