For The Record
Taking the Heat
Here in the South, we are experiencing our normal, 90-degree-plus temperatures. Summer officially kicked off this week, and heat and humidity are, once again, our way of life. But for many of you around the country, record-setting heat has plagued your already-sweltering days on the jobsites. It sounds like a no-brainer, but staying cool and hydrated isn’t only a way to be more comfortable; it’s a way to stay alive.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refers to these almost unbearable high-temperature environments as “heat stress” situations. The administration addressed heat stress in its Protecting Workers from Heat Illness document.
The document says that factors contributing to heat stress can include high temperatures and humidity; direct sun or heat; limited air movement; physical exertion; poor physical condition; some medicines; insufficient hydration; and an inadequate tolerance for hot workplaces.
You should be aware of the major factors that can lead to heat stress, especially dehydration. Hydration is a “continuous process for the body and should be done consistently and continuously throughout the day.”
Remember that alcohol can dehydrate you, and food does not equal water (even fruits). Sodas and juices also do not equal water. Only water can do the job of replenishing lost moisture from your body.
Heat exhaustion symptoms include headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, along with muscle cramps or pain; paleness, weakness and moist skin; mood changes such as irritability or confusion; and upset stomach or vomiting.
Heat stroke symptoms include flushed, dry, hot skin with no sweating; mental confusion, dizziness or loss of consciousness; and seizures or convulsions.
Preventing heat stress begins with knowing the signs/symptoms of heat-related illnesses, and monitoring yourself and your coworkers. Block or stay out of direct sunlight or other heat sources, use cooling fans or air-conditioning, and rest regularly. To address a heat-related illness, OSHA says to call 911 (or your local emergency number) at once, and then move the worker to a cool, shaded area. Loosen or remove heavy clothing, provide cool drinking water, and fan and mist the person with water.
You can learn more about surviving the heat on the jobsite this summer by visiting www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3154.pdf. Stay cool and hydrated, and enjoy your summer!