Avoiding Heat Problems at Work

Avoid Heat Problems at Work Say Health and Safety Consultants--Call to Action!Summer temperatures can make it uncomfortable to work on construction sites, at jobs requiring a lot of protective gear, on roofs and other places where the temperatures are high. But more than discomfort, heat can cause physical and mental problems. Your body isn’t made to handle high temperatures. According to health and safety consultants, heat can make it easier to get injured and can lead to serious illness.

To avoid heat-related problems at work, learn the symptoms of heat stress. Take precautions to stay safe and comfortable. If it happens, don’t delay, get medical help.

Symptoms of Heat Stress

Many people know the feeling of getting lightheaded after a long day at the beach on a sunny day. It’s a signal to get out of the sun and head back home.

When it happens at work, the consequences can be more serious. You are putting yourself and co-workers in danger. Heat stress causes dizziness, headaches and even fainting. It interferes with thought processes and can lead to confusion and mood swings. If you suddenly become irritable and have trouble focusing after a long day working in the sun–or just in a very hot environment–heat stress may be the culprit.50 things you must know about safety leadership

Physical symptoms include headaches and sudden weakness. If the temperatures are too high for you body to handle, your skin can becomes moist with a clammy feeling. This can lead to fainting, nausea and vomiting.

Health and safety consultants say that if the symptoms go on too long, they will lead to heat stroke, distinguished by these symptoms:

  • intense sense of mental confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • not sweating even though the temperature is high
  • hot, dry skin
  • seizures or convulsions
  • potentially death

What Health and Safety Consultants Say You can Do to Prevent Heat Stress

The good news is that you can prevent many problems caused by too much time in the sun or working in very high temperatures. The most important step is to reduce your exposure by putting up barriers to keep you out of direct sunlight, like tents or awnings. Use a sunscreen and reapply it every two hours.

Reduce heat or block the source of it as much as possible. Keep a thermometer close by and check it regularly. Once you get caught up in a job, it is easy to become unaware of the temperature until it’s too late.

Use fans and air conditioners. Wear the lightest possible clothing suitable on the job site. Make sure they fit loosely to allow ventilation.

Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine, which contributes to dehydration. Instead, drink lots of water in small doses. In very high temperatures, experts recommend one cup every 15 minutes. Eat lightly.

If You Get Too Much Sun

fctc-online-bannerBe alert for symptoms of heat stress in yourself and in your co-workers. At the first signs, get out of the sun and the heat. Drink water and remove heavy, tight clothing. Fan the person by waving a piece of cardboard or other material to move the air and cool it.

Misting a person with water will help reduce body temperature. All health and safety consultants make it clear that you can’t delay getting medical help out of a feeling that it’s a minor problem, or concern that it shows a lack of toughness. Getting to a doctor can prevent heatstroke from developing. It can save you or a colleague from seizures and even death.

~Mary Hannick


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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.