Protecting You and Your Employees from Heat-Related Illnesses

May 26, 2016:

Did you know that from 1999 to 2009 there were 7,233 heat-related deaths in the United States and studies show that this number is expected to rise? The three groups of people most susceptible to extreme heat are young children, the elderly and construction workers. With the hottest months right around the corner Diversified wanted to share some tips to help keep you and your employees safe this summer.

One of the most important ways to prevent heat-related illnesses is to be able to recognize the symptoms of the various types of heat-related illnesses. If you are able to recognize someone suffering the symptoms immediately, you can provide the appropriate care before it progresses to something more serious and potentially life-threating. The following are the major forms of heat-related illnesses in progression from mildest to most severe along with what first aid to provide according to the CDC.

Heat Rash:

Prolonged periods of sweating can irritate the skin, especially during hot, humid weather. Heat rash presents as a red cluster of blisters or pimples usually occurring on the neck, chest, groin or elbow area.

Treatment for heat rash is to keep affected area dry, apply dusting powders and try to work in cooler areas if possible.

Heat Cramps:

A precursor to heat exhaustion, heat cramps occur when someone’s salt and water levels get too low due to prolonged sweating due to exposure to extreme heat. Someone suffering heat cramps will experience abdomen, arm and leg muscle pain.

Heat cramps can be treated by moving to a cool, shaded and air-conditioned place and drinking cool, non-alcoholic beverages. Afflicted individuals should also not return to strenuous work for a few hours as this can re-aggravate the cramps.

Heat Exhaustion:

When an individual sweats profusely for an extended period of time the body loses water and salt causing heat exhaustion. Those most susceptible to heat exhaustion of the elderly or with high blood pressure. Symptoms include sweating, quick breathing, elevated body temperature, cramps, clammy skin, dizziness, confusion and weakness.

To treat someone suffering any combination of these symptoms first move them to a cool, shaded and ideally air-conditioned area. Then give them plenty of cool, non-alcoholic beverages and let them rest until their symptoms abate.

Heat Stroke:

The most serious heat-related illness and potentially life-threatening. Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to regulate its temperature. The primary symptoms of heat stroke are hot and dry skin, profuse sweating, chills, confusion, hallucinations, high body temperature, difficulty speaking and headaches.

If you notice someone experiencing the symptoms of heat stroke it is important to notify someone immediately and call 911. It is important to try to lower their body temperature quickly by moving them to a cool area and get them out of the sun. You should also try to cool them by soaking their clothes in cold water, fanning them or spraying them with cool water.

All of the various heat-related illness mentioned above are 100% preventable if you take a few simple precautions that can ensure you and your employees protected. The CDC makes the following recommendations for Employers and Workers:

For Employers:

  • Make sure water is available to all employees at all times
  • Offer heat-related illness training to all employees so they can recognize the symptoms and be able to provide the appropriate first aid
  • Offer frequent rest periods and water breaks
  • Schedule the most strenuous work during the cooler periods of the day
  • Make cool areas available and accessible when possible
  • Monitor employees for signs of heat-related illnesses

For Workers:

  • Drink lots of water and avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages
  • Take advantage of breaks and rest when possible
  • Be aware of your physical condition and the condition of others
  • Wear appropriate clothing and wear light, loose fitting clothing if appropriate
  • Try to perform the most strenuous work during the cooler periods of the day.

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