I know it is the end of summer but 109 people have died from heat illness between the years of 2008 and 2014. All of these deaths could have been prevented. What is heat illness? It is an illness that occurs from long exposure to heat where the body temperature gets too high without water breaks or time in the shade. Usually the body cools itself down by sweating but the body cannot sweat enough in hot temperatures in high humidity without some rest, water to replace what is being sweated out and some time out of the sun to cool off.
To prevent heat illness, employers should provide their employees with water, shade and rest breaks; they should also gradually increase the workload on their employees until their bodies can become tolerant to the heat and the work. Acclimatization is important to preventing heat illness. For workers who are new to the job or have been off of work for a while should take frequent breaks and drink lots of water while they gain tolerance.
Everyone who works in the heat should drink water every 15 minutes whether they are thirsty of not. They should also wear hats and light colored clothing that reflect the light. They should rest in the shade or in air conditioning, if possible, to cool down. Learn the signs of heat illness and keep an eye on fellow workers.
So, what are the signs of heat illness? The symptoms are confusion, dark colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headaches, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, profuse sweating, and rapid heartbeat.
You should treat heat illness is by getting out of the heat, drinking lots of water or other fluids but avoid caffeine and alcohol, remove any tight or unnecessary clothing, take a cool shower, bath or sponge bath and use other methods such as fans and ice towels. If these measures do not provide relief in 15 minutes, then emergency medical help should be called because a heat stroke could occur. Heat illness can be very deadly if you are not careful.
Extreme heat that affects workers is the heat index. The heat index is what the temperature feels like to the body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature. When the humidity is high in hotter temperatures, the evaporation of sweat decreases and fails to cool the body down. There is also a concern when there is low humidity and high temperatures. When to sweat is evaporated too fast and you do not drink enough water; you can die of dehydration. There is a chart the OSHA uses to know when precautions need to be taken. It is here below:
Heat Index Risk Level Protective Measures
Less than 91°F Lower (Caution)
Basic heat safety and planning
91°F to 103°F Moderate (Caution)
Implement precautions and heighten awareness
103°F to 115°F High (Caution)
Additional precautions to protect workers
Greater than 115°F Very High to Extreme (Caution)
Triggers even more aggressive protective measures
Employers and employees both need to be proactive to help stop preventable heat illness deaths.