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Working safely in the heat

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

Water. Rest. Shade these are the three components to OSHA's heat illness prevention campaign that they launched in 2011. They are a good reminder for those of us that work outside in the heat.

Every year thousands of cases of heat illness are reported and unfortunately many of them resulted in a loss of life. Heat illness can effect anyone regardless of age, gender, or physical ability. When you're working out in the field it's good practice to understand the symptoms and what to do in case someone is suffering from them.

Tips for staying cool while working outdoors:

  1. Keep a wet cloth and sunscreen in a cooler and use on breaks

  2. Wear breathable clothes

  3. Mist yourself with water

  4. Apply ice or cool water to pulse points

  5. Stay hydrated

  6. Wear a hat

  7. Dress appropriately

  8. Take breaks in the shade or cool area

Signs of heat exhaustion:

* Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat

* Heavy sweating

* Faintness

* Dizziness

* Fatigue

* Weak, rapid pulse

* Low blood pressure upon standing

* Muscle cramps

* Nausea

* Headache

What to do:

+ Move person to a cooler area

+ Let the person lay down and loosen clothing

+ Apply cool, wet clothes to as much of the body as possible

+ Fan or move them to an air conditioned area

+ Offer sips of water

+ If person vomits more than once seek medical attention

Signs of Heat Stroke:

(Heat stroke is much more severe and should be treated by a medical professional)

* Throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, shallow breathing

* Body temperature of above 103°F

* Extreme thirst

* Red, hot, dry or moist skin

* Rapid pulse

* Fainting, convulsions or loss of consciousness

What to do:

+ Call 911 emergency

+ Reduce temperature until the ambulance arrives

A good way of preventing heat exhaustion or heat stroke is to provide a cool, place in the shade. Here are some other ideas.

  • Providing workers with water, rest and shade.

  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimate to the heat (while the build a tolerance for working in the heat.)

  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.

  • Monitor workers for signs of illness. Or have them check in with each other.

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