Most everywhere in the United States has heat warnings and advisories from the U.S. National Weather Service. Exposed workers are at high risk of heat-related illness due to these extreme hot and humid conditions. If not used to working in the higher summer temperatures, the effects of heat-related illnesses can set in quickly. Heat stress can be brought on by internal body heat generated by exertion and environmental heat arising from working conditions.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests workers that have not been on a job site for four or more days should gradually increase their workload and heat exposure over a week to re-acclimatize to the environment.
How to prevent heat stress:
Stay hydrated. Workers should be well hydrated before, during and after arriving at a job site, NIOSH said.
Eat during lunch and other rest breaks. Food helps replace lost electrolytes.
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing made of materials such as cotton.
If outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat when possible.
Take breaks in a cool area when possible.
Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.
Monitor physical condition and that of co-workers.
Tell a supervisor if you have symptoms of heat-related illness. (see below)
Talk with your doctor about medications you are taking and how those may affect heat tolerance.
Heat-related illness symptoms:
Nausea or vomiting.
Breathing fast or heart beating faster than normal.
Weak, tired, dizzy or faint.
Heavier sweating than usual.
The biggest advocate against heat stress is hydration. How much water should you drink? Internet search “hydration calculator”. There is a calculator for everything. There are many factors to consider. Height, weight, gender, length of heat exposure and environmental temperatures are a few factors. Do not wait until you feel thirsty because that is an indication you are already on the road to dehydration.
Healthy or not, anyone can suffer from a heat illness. Take precautions and be aware of symptoms for yourself, as well as your coworkers.