Summer in Ontario can get so hot that it can be dangerous for workers. Workers who perform work indoors in hot environments and those who work outdoors under the sun are at risk for injuries and illnesses resulting from heat stress.
Everyone is at Risk
Regardless of if the work takes place indoors or outside, when it’s hot everybody is at risk.
Any indoor workplace can become too hot for employees to work comfortably or safely, especially if the air-conditioning is not working properly, or not present at all. As well, running a lot of machinery, ovens, or other heat-generating appliances can increase the risk of heat stress in indoor workplaces. Specific high-risk workplaces include:
- Boiler rooms
- Any machine manufacturing facilities, or facilities that use any source of heat for production
Working outside during heat advisories or warnings is not recommended, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Construction workers, agricultural workers, recreational staff, and landscapers are all at higher risk for heat stress during the summer months.
Know the Difference
Heat stress. Heat exhaustion. Sunstroke. Heatstroke. Do you know the difference? The terms are often used interchangeably, but they each describe different conditions.
Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to release excess heat. When the body is in this state, the core temperature increases, and the heart rate quickens. When individuals experience heat stress, they are at risk for heat-related ailments that include minor afflictions such as heat rash and cramps, and more serious ailments such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat Rash and Cramps
Heat rash, characterized by small red bumps, results in irritation to the skin. It’s caused by sweat that doesn’t evaporate off the skin.
Excessive sweating resulting in decreased levels of body salts and fluids causes muscles to cramp.
Both heat rash and cramps are fairly minor safety concerns; however, a severe rash can cause extreme irritation that could result in lost time. Employees experiencing cramps should hydrate and rest, as cramping while operating machinery or working at heights could result in an injury.
Heat exhaustion usually precedes heatstroke. Signs of heat exhaustion include:
- Cool, moist skin
- Feeling faint, dizzy, or fatigued
- Having a weak but rapid pulse
- Muscle cramps
Heatstroke (also called sunstroke) is a more serious condition. It usually results from ignoring or not treating heat exhaustion. Signs of heatstroke include:
- A high body temperature of 104 degrees or greater
- An altered mental state, confusion
- Hot, dry skin
- Nausea or vomiting
- Flushed skin
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
The key difference between heat exhaustion and heatstroke is that heat exhaustion is accompanied by sweat. When heatstroke sets in, sweating ceases. can be. When the temperature rises, the risk for heat exhaustion and heatstroke does too.
Preventing Heat Exhaustion
Prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke by ensuring that you stay hydrated when the temperature rises. As well, employers should allow for cooling breaks as frequently as every
hour for employees who work outdoors or in hot factories and kitchens. All employees who work in hot conditions should receive heat stress awareness training.
Sign Up for Heat Stress Awareness Training Today
Loose-fitting lightweight clothes and sun hats are the best clothing options. Try to take it easy, or move the work to a cooler area, during the hottest time of the day, between 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm.
Providing First Aid
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion is the key to preventing heatstroke. Treating heat exhaustion quickly helps prevent heatstroke.
If you suspect someone is suffering from heat exhaustion, offer the following first aid:
- Move the person into the shade or inside to an airconditioned space
- Have the person lay down on their back, and elevate their feet and legs slightly
- Remove any heavy clothing
- Provide water to drink – in the absence of water another cool, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drink will do
- Cool the person using sprays or sponges
If symptoms do not improve, consider calling a doctor for a medical assessment. Continue to monitor the person. If they continue to deteriorate, call 911. Whenever in doubt, consult medical professionals.
BEST Safety Training Can Help
BEST Safety Training offers First Aid Training. We also offer an online course in Heat Stress Awareness for your safety and convenience. Let the BEST Safety Training company take care of your training needs.