When you think of summer, you might think of vacations, beaches, outdoor picnics and baseball games. But if your job requires you and your staff to work in the heat, you probably have a much different view of this steamy season. Even those who are experienced and aware of the risks that go along with working in the heat can get hit with heat stress, though, and it's important to know that no matter how many times someone says "It's not that bad" or "I'll be fine," everyone's susceptible to the impact of the heat and humidity.
So what are the risks?
Heat Rash – The most common heat-related issue, this issue is caused by sweating and appears as a cluster of red bumps or blisters.
Heat Cramps – Caused by the loss of hydration and nutrients due to sweating, these cramps most often arise in the abdomen, legs or arms.
Heat Exhaustion – This condition includes a number of symptoms, including increased heart rate, dizziness, weakness, nausea and confusion. This condition needs immediate attention and may require professional treatment.
Heat Stroke – This is the most severe risk when working in the heat. With some of the same symptoms as heat exhaustion, heat stroke can also include a halt in perspiration, throbbing headache, loss of coordination and high body temperate. This requires immediate professional treatment and attention.
So how can you reduce these risks for yourselves and your workers? Here are 10 tips:
- Enforce shorter work sessions and longer breaks for up to 2 weeks to allow for acclimation to the heat
- Going forward, encourage and enforce more frequent breaks
- Train workers to recognize likely conditions for and symptoms of heat stress
- Create a worksite standard of lightweight and light-colored clothing
- Avoid the consumption of caffeinated products and alcoholic beverages
- Drink a formulated hydrating beverage (like SQWINCHER) every 15 minutes and do not allow yourself to get thirsty
- Set up shaded, cooler areas for breaks and make sure workers are notified of these areas
- Monitor everyone on the work team regularly and consistently
- Have a documented treatment plan for all levels of heat stress and products to support the plan in place
- Make sure everyone is aware of your exact working location and the best way to contact emergency services
Heat and humidity are often part of the work environment. Being prepared and educated on how to proactively prepare can keep your workplace safe and more enjoyable.