Working in Hot Conditions, Indoors or Outdoors, Creates Health Risk
Heat cramps occur when the body loses too much salt from heavy exertion in heat. Heat exhaustion occurs when the body can’t replace fluids and/or salt lost in sweating. Perspiration in heat is important, because it cools the body as it evaporates.
Heat stroke occurs when the body no longer sweats and holds so much heat that body temperature reached dangerous levels. Heat stroke is a medical emergency and can lead to delirium, convulsions, unconsciousness, or even death.
Factors that can increase the risk of these types of heat stress include:
- Physical exertion
- Being unaccustomed to working in heat
- Wearing protective clothing that traps body heat
- Age – Older people may have less body water and lower sweat gland efficiency.
- Overweight, which makes you use more energy to perform tasks
- Medication that can interfere with normal body reactions to heat
Take Precautions to Avoid Heat Stress When Working in Hot Conditions
For work outdoors in the heat or indoors in laundries, foundries, or other hot areas:
- Gradually adjust to heat when new to a job or after a two-week or longer absence.
- Take about five days to gradually build up time spent working in heat.
- Use general ventilation, cooling fans, and evaporative cooling whenever possible.
- Shield furnaces and other heat producing equipment.
- Check for and eliminate any steam leaks.
- Plan the most strenuous work for the coolest parts of the day.
- Wear loose, lightweight, light colored clothes.
- Wear a hat and use sunscreen to work outdoors.
- Drink water steadily before and during work in the heat.
- Drink about 16 ounces before starting, and 5 to 7 ounces every 15-20 minutes during hot work.
- Eat well-balanced meals, avoiding heavy or hot food, alcohol and caffeine.
- Take salt tables to replace what’s lost in perspiration, if approved by a doctor.
- Work at a steady pace, minimizing overexertion.
- Take regular breaks in a cool, well-ventilated area.
- Know your own limits and ability to work safely in heat.
- Take fast action for symptoms of heat cramps, exhaustion, or heat stroke.
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