HEALTH AND SAFETY
The Five Best Ways to Protect Against Heat Stress
Jul 10, 2023 | Health & Safety
By: Matt Ricks
As the summer heat peaks and our work continues outdoors, safeguarding our health and well-being becomes paramount. Heat stress and heat-related illnesses pose significant risks, requiring preventive measures to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Here are the five best ways to combat heat stress.
1. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Proper hydration is vital to mitigating heat stress. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests drinking water every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Plan to consume at least one bottle of water every 30 minutes and avoid sugary drinks that can contribute to dehydration. Always carrying water bottles and prioritizing regular hydration breaks for you and your team should become a daily habit.
2. Frequent Rest Breaks
OSHA also highlights the significance of acclimatization and frequent rest breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas. If you are new to working in hot conditions or have been away for more than a week, gradually increase your exposure to heat over several days. Frequent breaks allow your body to cool down and recover from heat strain. Ensure compliance with OSHA’s guidelines by following the schedule provided by your supervisor.
3. Wear Protective Clothing
Choosing appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial for minimizing heat stress risks. Plan to wear lightweight, breathable fabrics that facilitate air circulation and select light-colored clothing to reflect heat. Sunscreen, hats, and other protective gear should be used to shield yourself from direct sunlight. Teams should provide sufficient breaks for workers to remove PPE when it restricts heat dissipation.
4. Look Out for the Signs of Heat Stress
Proper training and awareness are essential in preventing heat stress incidents. Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Stay vigilant in recognizing early warning signs in both you and your colleagues. Report any concerns immediately to your supervisor or safety personnel.
5. Monitor Weather Conditions
Keeping an eye on weather reports and staying informed about the heat index, which combines air temperature and relative humidity, is crucial. Extreme heat warnings should serve as a signal to heighten our awareness and take additional precautions.
Heat Stress Signs and Symptoms
Taking prompt action to prevent and address heat stress is vital to crew health and safety. Here are the signs and symptoms to watch out for:
- Heat Rash: Small red bumps or blisters on the skin, usually in areas where sweat is trapped, such as the neck, chest, groin, or underarms.
- Heat Cramps: Painful muscle spasms or cramps, typically in the legs or abdomen, often associated with dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
- Heat Exhaustion: A more serious condition resulting from prolonged exposure to high temperatures and inadequate fluid intake. Symptoms include heavy sweating, fatigue, weakness, headache, dizziness, nausea, rapid heartbeat, pale complexion, muscle cramps, and fainting.
- Heat Stroke: A severe and life-threatening condition requiring immediate medical attention. Symptoms include extremely high body temperature, altered mental state, lack of sweating, rapid breathing and heartbeat, throbbing headache, dizziness, seizures, and loss of consciousness.
Being Prepared and Taking Action Can Prevent Heat Stress
Taking any signs or symptoms of heat stress or heat-related illness seriously is crucial. If you or someone else experiences these symptoms, immediate action is necessary. Move to a cool, shaded area, loosen clothing, and apply cool water or ice packs to the body. Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.