Heat Stress Awareness
New Braunfels, TX, April 26, 2023
Now that we are approaching the summer months and as temperatures begin to rise, we wanted to take the time to discuss heat stress. Heat stress is a serious condition that can occur when the body’s core temperature rises above normal levels due to exposure to high temperatures and/or humidity. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including working in hot environments, exercising in the heat, and not drinking enough fluids. Symptoms of heat stress can include dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, and muscle cramps. If left untreated, heat stress can lead to heat exhaustion. Remember, heat-related illnesses are 100% preventable. Now that we know the definition of heat stress and what symptoms to look out for, here are three key points to remember pertaining to heat stress.
- Stay hydrated.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Know how to treat heat stress/ exhaustion.
Hydration is key to preventing heat stress and you should be hydrating before work even commences. Being hydrated when you start work makes it easier to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you are dehydrated when you start work, you may not be able to drink enough to catch up with your body’s need for water. Drink before feeling thirsty. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already behind in fluid replacement. Dehydration is a primary contributor to heat exhaustion. Your work performance may suffer when you are dehydrated, even if you don’t notice. When working in the heat, drink 1 cup (8 ounces) of water every 15–20 minutes. This translates to 24–32 ounces per hour. Drinking at shorter intervals is more effective than drinking large amounts infrequently. Do not drink more than 48 oz per hour! Drinking too much water or other fluids (sports drinks, energy drinks, etc.) can cause a medical emergency because the concentration of salt in the blood becomes too low. Lastly, hydrating after work is just as important. Most people need several hours to drink enough fluids to replace what they have lost through sweat. The sooner you get started, the less strain you place on your body from dehydration. Hydrating after work is even more important if you work in the heat on a regular basis. Chronic dehydration increases the risk for several medical conditions, such as kidney stones.
TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS
Periodic rest breaks are more effective at keeping the body cool than taking a break when a worker feels too hot. Think prevention, rather than fixing something that’s wrong. Workers that wait until symptoms appear to finally take a cool-down break are at risk for developing a serious heat-related illness—and the progression to a serious illness can be rapid once symptoms begin. These preventative breaks are not the same as regularly scheduled rest breaks like mealtimes. These breaks should not be rushed, especially if the worker is feeling like they may be overheated. During a cool-down rest, workers should be monitored for signs of heat stress and have access to drinking water. If any signs of heat illness are observed or reported, the employer must not order the worker back to work and the worker must be observed and monitored until symptoms have passed.
KNOW HOW TO TREAT HEAT STRESS/ EXHAUSTION
The treatment for heat stress and heat exhaustion involves moving the affected person to a cooler, shaded area, providing cool water or electrolyte-replacement drinks, and loosening or removing tight clothing. In addition, fanning the affected person, applying cool wet towels to the skin, and elevating the legs can be helpful. If the person is showing signs of heat stroke, such as confusion, seizures, or loss of consciousness, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get you taken care of.