Topic of the Week Heat Safety
Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. There are a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition. Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat.
1. What are heat related illnesses?
Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death! Call 911 immediately. The symptoms of a heat stroke include:
- Excessive sweating or red, hot, dry skin
- Very high body temperature
Heat exhaustion is the body's response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating.
Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Low salt levels in muscles cause painful cramps. Tired muscles—those used for performing the work—are usually the ones most affected by cramps. Cramps may occur during or after working hours.
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments.
2. Who should be worried about hot conditions at work?
There are a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition, whether an individual is working indoors or outdoors.
Workers who are exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat-related illness. The risk of heat-related illness becomes greater as the weather gets hotter and more humid. This situation is particularly serious when hot weather arrives suddenly early in the season, before workers have had a chance to adapt to warm weather.
Indoor workplaces with hot conditions may include iron and steel foundries, brick-firing and ceramic plants, glass products facilities, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), bakeries, commercial kitchens, laundries, chemical plants, material handling and distribution warehouses, and many other environments.
Outdoor workplaces with work in hot weather and direct sun, such as farm work, construction, oil and gas well operations, landscaping, emergency response operations, and hazardous waste site activities, also increase the risk of heat-related illness in exposed workers.
Thought of the Week
"Speaking for all past and present members of the Workplace Fairness board: we are enormously grateful to Walt and Fred for their many, many years of dedicated and effective service to Workplace Fairness and its mission - and to American workers. I personally appreciate their abiding friendship, loyalty, and support through the years. Thank you guys!"
–Wayne N. Outten | President and Founder of Workplace Fairness
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from NSC First Aid Quick Reference
When the body loses excessive water and salt, usually due to sweating, heat exhaustion can occur. Signs and symptoms include:
• Pale, ashen or moist skin
• Muscle cramps (especially for those working or exercising outdoors in high temperatures)
• Fatigue, weakness or exhaustion
• Headache, dizziness or fainting
• Nausea or vomiting
• Rapid heart rate
Uncontrolled heat exhaustion can evolve into heat stroke, so make sure to treat victims quickly:
• Move victims to a shaded or air-conditioned area
• Give water or other cool, nonalcoholic beverages
• Apply wet towels, or have victims take a cool shower