Occupational Heat Exposure
As we move into spring, and subsequently summer, occupational heat exposure becomes prevalent. Many people are exposed to heat on their jobs, whether outdoors or in hot indoor environments. Every year, thousands of workers become sick, or even die, from occupational heat exposure. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.
Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat-related illness. It happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and as a result the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs and symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, and a very high body temperature with hot, red, dry skin.
This is a true medical emergency that may result in death. Call 911 immediately and place worker in a shady, cool area. Loosen clothing, fan air on worker, wet with cool water and apply cool compresses. Stay with worker until help arrives.
Other heat-related illnesses are heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash. Worker will have cool, moist skin with heavy sweating, headache, nausea, thirst and light-headedness. Have worker sit in a cool, shady area, give worker plenty of water, cool worker down with cool compresses. Seek medical attention if the signs/symptoms do not improve (or get worse) within 60 minutes.
More information can be found on the USDOL’s OSHA website at www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatstress/heat_illnesses.html.