Beat the Heat this Summer
Heat is one of the deadliest types of weather in the United States, killing around 700 people every year, and causing many more to become ill, according to the CDC. As climate change continues to push average temperatures higher, heat events will become more common and more severe.
Heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke, happen when the body can no longer cool itself. These illnesses impact thousands of workers each year; in 2020, nearly 1,900 workers missed work due to illnesses and injuries resulting from heat exposure. Knowing how to stay safe during high temperatures and how to spot the signs of heat illness can help keep you and your workers healthy.
Take some time this summer to learn more about heat and share these resources with your workforce.
Heat-related illnesses are entirely preventable. Knowing how to spot the signs and symptoms can help you keep yourself, your loved ones and your coworkers healthy and safe.
Bear in mind that while anyone can fall victim to heat, certain people are more susceptible than others. Young children, older adults, and people with mental illness or chronic diseases are at the highest risk for heat-related illnesses. Young, healthy people doing physical activities – such as workers performing manual labor – can also be impacted by hot temperatures, both indoors and out.
Each heat-related illness bears its own symptoms, but it’s important to note that any unusual symptom can be a sign of overheating.
Some of the most prominent heat-related illnesses are:
If someone you know experiences heat stroke, call 911 immediately. Move them indoors or to a shady area, and cool with cold cloths, a bath or ice packs. Do not give them anything to drink. Symptoms of heat stroke include:
● Body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
● Hot, red, dry or damp skin
● Fast, strong pulse
● Losing consciousness
Symptoms of heat cramps include heavy sweating and muscle cramps or spasms. If someone experiences heat cramps provide water or an electrolyte drink. Gently stretch, massage and ice the muscle.
Heat exhaustion can lead to a number of symptoms, including:
● Heavy sweating
● Cold, pale and clammy skin
● Fast, weak pulse
● Nausea or vomiting
● Muscle cramps
● Tiredness or weakness
In the case of heat exhaustion, lay the person down in a cool area and remove excess clothing. If he or she has not vomited, provide water or an electrolyte drink. Cool with a water spray or wet cloths and a fan.
In the moment, it may be difficult to diagnose which heat-related illness is impacting someone. If you cannot pinpoint what is causing the symptoms, it is still important to act quickly. When in doubt, cool the worker and call 911. Stay until help arrives.
When spending time in extreme heat, it’s important to balance physical activities with breaks to cool off. The CDC recommends you:
● Stay in indoor, air-conditioned spaces as much as possible
● Drink plenty of fluids even if you don’t feel thirsty
● Take cool showers or baths
● Check on co-workers, friends or neighbors and have them do the same for you
● Never leave children or animals in cars
Planning ahead can help you stay healthy and fight the heat. Check the weather before you go to work or spend time outside. If it’s going to be hot, put on lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a hat. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and reapply it every two hours. Listen to your body. If you notice changes in how you feel, stop and take a break.
As an employer, if your workers are exposed to the heat, develop a heat illness prevention program. This program should include training on heat-related illness prevention, emergency plans, monitoring of workers for signs of illness, and access to water, rest and shade.
As you spend more time outdoors doing yard work and enjoying the warm weather, remember that safety isn’t just for work. Your backyard comes with risks and dangers to consider before you step out this summer.
Plan ahead for yard work. Lawnmowers send tens of thousands of people to the hospital each year. Before you mow, make sure you clear the area of rocks and sticks. Keep children and pets away, and fill the gas tank when the engine is cold. Wear appropriate shoes and clothing, as well as eye and ear protection.
Be aware of any critters and insects in your area, and keep a lookout for them. Ticks, spiders, insects and snakes all pose risks, both on the jobsite and at home. Wear insect repellent and dispose of garbage quickly to avoid the attention of local fauna. If you are working in areas where poisonous plants grow – such as poison ivy, sumac and oak – wear long sleeves and pants.
Staying focused on safety – both at home and at work – will go a long way toward keeping your summer fun and injury-free.