Heatstroke: Beat The Heat
Summer weather in Central Florida is here! The rainy season has rolled in, and the storm fronts are hanging around. Rain ushers in consistently rising temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s, and with rising temperatures, the potential for heatstroke/ heat-related ailments drastically increases.
Heatstroke is preventable if engineered safety controls are executed. The best method to preventing heat-related illness is to make the work environment cooler and to reduce manual workload with mechanization. A variety of controls can reduce workers’ exposure to heat and might include those that aim to increase air velocity (like fans); reflective or heat-absorbing shielding or barriers (like tents that provide shade or reflective sun hats with neck flaps); and reduction of steam leaks, wet floors, or humidity.
In hot humid environments, make sure there’s plenty of water onsite and check in regularly with your crew to ensure that they’re drinking it! If a member of your team is feeling nauseated and does not want to drink, they’re exhibiting symptoms of heat exhaustion, and additional steps should be taken immediately. An article published in 2016 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discusses the recommended heat exposure limits, and how to gradually acclimatize employees to working in various weather conditions by limiting exposure times and offering regular breaks.
All workers and supervisors who work in environments where there is a potential risk of heat injury or illness should participate in training programs. Training should include information about heat stress, risk factors, signs, symptoms, and first aid.
According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals displaying signs of heatstroke/exhaustion should immediately be moved into a cooler environment. Call 911 and remove any excess clothing that can retain heat from the victim. Attempt to cool the individual by any means possible: bringing them inside where it’s air-conditioned, soaking the extremities and core in cold tubs of water, or dousing the person with a garden hose are all good steps. Avoid ice cold liquids or anything caffeinated/carbonated for re-hydration as they can cause stomach cramps to someone who is dehydrated.
For engineered controls to be effective, teamwork and attentiveness are the keys to success, especially in cases of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Watch out for one another. If someone is exhibiting signs of distress, make sure they step back to refresh and cool down. While it may seem like those extra few minutes will save time in the long run, if it takes you down for the count you won’t be able to complete the project. Take your time, take care of yourself and go home safely at the end of every day.