Workplace Heat Stress

From: Steve Ham, Lofton Safety Services

Aug 4, 2020

August is the hottest month of the year.  A big concern that seems to sneak up on workers during high heat periods is heat-related illness. Working in a hot, humid environment can be difficult or even fatal if you ignore the signs and symptoms of heat-related disorders. This can affect people working in enclosed, hot environments like warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and construction sites.  It can also affect those that work outdoors in direct sunlight. While our bodies have several ways of maintaining a safe temperature (like sweating), it becomes much more difficult in a hot environment. When the body is unable to cool itself and begins to overheat, heat stroke is a likely outcome. When your body temperature reaches 104°F, you are suffering a heat stroke. Because the effects of heat stress can be severe, OSHA requires employers to take steps to protect workers from heat stress.  

To help prevent heat stroke, you need to know the symptoms:    

  • High body temperature
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Flushed or red, dry skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Muscle weakness/cramps
  • No sweating

Heat stress is the body’s response to heat loading. Factors that contribute to heat stroke include:  

  • Environmental heat source
  • Amount of exertion required to perform a task
  • Amount of time spent in hot or humid conditions
  • Type of clothing worn

It’s imperative to have a good emergency plan to deal with heat illness, including calling 911, when you suspect someone is suffering a heat stroke. There are other actions you can take immediately to aid a heat stroke victim:  

  • Move the person to a cool area.
  • Remove PPE and excess clothing.
  • Apply ice packs to the armpits, groin, neck, and back. If ice packs are not available, try to cool the person’s body temperature by fanning air, while wetting his or her skin.
  • Monitor and maintain their airway, breathing and circulation.

About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton Staffing can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today.

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