Do you work in heat? You could be in danger of heat illness – everything from heat rash and heat cramps to the more serious heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which is often fatal. Learn what you can do to keep you and your co-workers safe.
Heat exposure can cause a range of effects on your body, from irritating rashes to heat stroke, which is often fatal. Understanding heat stress can help you to stay safe while working in hot environments.
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Heat Stress Overview
Understanding heat stress can help you to stay safe while working in hot environments. Things you need to know:
- Heat exposure can cause a range of effects on your body, from irritating rashes to heat stroke, which is often fatal.
- Heat exposure can cause confusion and poor judgment—use the buddy system to monitor coworkers for heat illness.
- Drinking enough water is critical to preventing heat illness. Stay hydrated.
- Cooling is the treatment for all heat illness.
Factors that Increase Heat Illness Risk
- High humidity
- Lack of wind or breeze to cool the body
- Lack of acclimatization
- Age over 60 years
- Protective gear, including non-breathable or minimally breathable clothing, respirators, and chemical-resistant apparel
- History of heat illness
- History of recent illness unrelated to heat (especially involving vomiting or diarrhea)
- Certain health conditions
- Certain medications
- Physically demanding work
- Recent alcohol use (within previous 24 hours)
Points to Remember About Heat Stress
- Heat acclimatization is the improvement in heat tolerance that comes from gradually increasing the duration or intensity of work performed in a hot setting.
- Acclimatization is most effective if it takes place gradually over a period of 7 to 14 days.
- You begin to lose your acclimatization after about one week away from work in the heat.
- After 1 month away from work in the heat, most people will have lost nearly all heat acclimatization.
- Drinking enough fluids is one of the most important ways to avoid heat illness.
- Don’t rely on thirst to tell you when you are dehydrated—thirst lags behind dehydration by several hours.
- Drink 1 cup (8 ounces) of water every 15–20 minutes while working in the heat.
- Electrolytes can be replaced by eating regular meals.
- Sports drinks can also replace electrolytes, but are not usually necessary unless heavy sweating continues for more than 2 hours