Summer has arrived once again, and blazing temperatures can spell trouble for crews that work outdoors. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identifies five heat-related illnesses that employers and employees should recognize and understand in order to stay safe on the job. Read on for great information you can pass along to your crew.
Occurs when the skin is constantly wet with perspiration. It can become complicated by infection brought on through scratching.
•Symptoms: Itchy, reddish rash on skin. Normally appears on neck, upper chest and folds of skin.
•Treatment & Prevention: Rest in a cool, dry place, allowing the skin to dry. Shower every day after work. Sleep in a cool, dry place overnight. To avoid infection, resist the urge to scratch.
This is a problem especially for new employees who are not acclimated to working outside. It is also an issue for anyone who stands around outside or is not moving much.
•Symptoms: Dizziness, feeling faint.
•Treatment & Prevention: Moving around, rather than standing still, usually reduces the possibility of fainting. Employees feeling faint should lie down in a cool place for short while.
Occur when individuals drink sufficient water but do not replace their body’s salt.
•Symptoms: Painful muscle spasms usually occurring in the arms, legs and/or stomach. Cramps may occur during or after work hours.
•Treatment & Prevention: Rest in a cool, shaded area and wait a few hours before returning to strenuous work. Replenish lost nutrients by drinking fluids containing salts, minerals and electrolytes.
Note: Seek medical attention if cramps do not go away.
Results from loss of fluid and salt due to heavy perspiration. Affects those who do not drink enough fluids, take in enough salt or both.
•Symptoms: An individual experiencing heat exhaustion will perspire heavily while also experiencing extreme fatigue, giddiness, nausea, dizziness, thirst, fast heartbeat or headache. Skin will be clammy and moist, with a pale or flushed complexion and a body temperature that is normal or slightly elevated.
•Treatment & Prevention: Rest in a cool place and drink salted fluids.
Note: Seek medical attention if the individual experiences a loss of consciousness, and/or if signs or symptoms do not improve within 60 minutes.
This is the most serious heat stress illness, as it can cause damage to the brain or other vital organs — and can be fatal. Heat stroke occurs when the body is so overheated that it is unable to rid itself of excess heat or regulate its core temperature.
•Symptoms: Halted perspiration, fainting, mental confusion, delirium, loss of consciousness, convulsions or coma and a body temperature of 106º Fahrenheit or higher. The individual’s skin may be red, hot, dry or bluish.
•Treatment & Prevention: Call 9-1-1 immediately! Medical attention is critical, as heat stroke can result in death. First aid procedures include moving the individual to a cool place, soaking their clothes in cool water, applying ice packs, providing fluids (preferably water) and fanning vigorously to increase cooling.