Summer Safety

Heat Stress

Excess heat can place an abnormal stress on your body. When your body temperature rises even a few degrees above normal (which is about 98.6? F), you can experience muscle cramps, become weak, disoriented, and dangerously ill unless you can help your body to cool down. If your body temperature rises above 105? F, your condition can be fatal. Persons who work in hot environments must take special care against heat stress. The following guidelines can help you keep your cool in the heat and avoid the dangerous consequences of heat stress.

Avoiding Heat Stress

It takes about 4-7 days to get used to unusual heat. If you know you'll be exposed to hot temperatures, spend more time each day in the heat for about a week before beginning your task. Always drink plenty of cool water when you're in the heat. You may not be thirsty, but your body can still be losing as much as three gallons of water a day in hot weather. Wear hats, sunglasses, and loose cotton fabrics to help you stay cool. Take frequent breaks in a cool place.

Drink Water Frequently

Sweating is one of the ways your body cools itself down. Sweating results in water loss, and the only way to replace the loss (and help your body continue to cool itself) is to drink water frequently. Ideally, you should drink at least eight ounces of water ever 20-30 minutes while working in hot environments.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment Personal

Protective Equipment (PPE) for hot environments can range from ordinary work clothes made from "breathable" fabrics to specially designed suits that are cooled by air, ice, and even portable air-conditioners.

Use Engineering Controls

Your employer may also provide engineering controls such as fans, ventilators, exhaust systems, and air-coolant or conditioning systems. These controls can help reduce worksite temperatures to more adaptable levels. Other controls such as using heat shields and insulating heat-producing machinery can also help lower the environmental temperature.

First Aid for Heat Cramps

If you're working or playing hard in the heat, you can get cramps, pains, or spasms. Often they are in your arms, legs, or abdomen. You will probably be perspiring heavily. You can also get heat cramps from drinking too many cold liquids, or by drinking them too quickly. Massage or use firm pressure on the muscle that is cramping. Drink small sips of water with a little salt added (if you have a heart or blood pressure problem, drink plain water) to help cool your body. Move into the shade or a cooler (not cold) place.

First Aid for Heat Exhaustion

People with heat exhaustion have some or all of the following symptoms: sweating, clammy, flushed, or pale skin, dizziness, weakness, nausea, rapid and shallow breathing, headache, vomiting, or fainting. Those with heat exhaustion should lie down in a cooler (not cold) place, with feet raised and tight clothing loosened. Give them sips of cool water, adding one teaspoon of salt per quart of water. (If they have heart or blood pressure problems, give plain water.) Call a doctor, especially if there is vomiting or fainting.

Know About Heat Stress

Too much heat can make people lose their concentration, get tired, or grouchy. Understanding how to deal with heat stress can help you avoid accidents and misunderstandings.

Keep Cool

Persons who work in hot environments should become familiar with first aid techniques for heat stress. If you or someone you know suffers from heat exhaustion, cramps, or other signs of heat stress, get medical attention immediately. Keep your cool - heat stress is dangerous, but it is also preventable.

August, 1994