OSHA is creating a Nation Emphasis program on Outdoor and Indoor Heat-Related Hazards.  OSHA Area Offices shall assess the potential for heat-related illnesses, injuries, and deaths where heat-related hazards may exist in indoor work areas or at outdoor work areas on heat priority days when the heat index is expected to be 80°F or higher. Yes, you read that correctly.

Employer's Responsibility.

Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety and health hazards. This includes protecting workers from heat-related hazards.  This includes training employees, planning work, implementing administrative controls, engineering controls, and understanding the basics of heat stress.

Basics of Heat Stress.

When the body is unable to cool off by sweating, heat-induced illnesses, such as heat rash, cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke can occur. These illnesses can be serious, sometimes even resulting in death.

Factors Leading to Heat Stress.

The following are common factors that can all contribute to heat stress:

  1. High temperature and humidity
  2. Direct sun or heat
  3. Limited air movement
  4. Physical exertion
  5. Poor physical condition
  6. Some medications
  7. A lack of tolerance for hot workplaces or areas

Heat Stress Prevention.

  1. Know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses; monitor yourself and your co-workers.
  2. Block or avoid direct sunlight or other heat sources.
  3. Use cooling fans or air conditioning.
  4. Take regular breaks in shaded areas.
  5. Drink plenty of water or high-electrolyte fluids.
  6. Wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing.
  7. Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, and heavy meals.
  8. If you detect signs of heat exhaustion, notify a supervisor or appropriate individual with first aid training.

Heat Rash.

Symptoms: Cluster of small red pimples or blisters

Causes: Excessive sweating, which leads to clogged pores and, if untreated, to infection

First aid: Cleanse and dry the affected area and use calamine lotion or powder to increase comfort.

Heat Cramps.

Symptoms: Painful spasms of leg, arm, or abdominal muscles, heavy sweating, and thirst

Causes: Electrolyte deficiencies during or after strenuous physical activity, due to extended periods of intense sweating

First aid: The affected individual must stop all activity, sit in a cool place, drink plenty of water or high-electrolyte fluids, and wait for a few hours after the cramps have subsided before engaging in any strenuous physical activities.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms: Fatigue, profuse sweating, weak and rapid heartbeat, headaches, nausea, confusion, loss of coordination, muscle weakness, dizziness, or fainting

Causes: Dehydration, lack of acclimatization to high temperatures, strain on the circulatory system, and reduced blood flow to the brain

First aid: The affected individual must rest in a cool, shaded, or air-conditioned area. First aid includes cooling the affected individual by fanning, misting with water, or applying ice packs. Give cool (not cold) water only if the individual is conscious.

Heat Stroke

Symptoms: Core body temperature exceeding 104° F, hot skin with a lack of perspiration, strong and rapid pulse, nausea, confusion, dizziness, seizures or convulsions, or fainting

Causes: Heat exhaustion was left untreated and the body’s cooling mechanisms have been exhausted

First aid: Heat stroke is immediately life-threatening. Notify a supervisor and follow the emergency action procedure. While waiting for medical personnel to arrive, the individual giving care should take the following measures:

  1. Move the affected person to a cool, shaded, or air-conditioned area.
  2. Give cool (not cold) water only if the individual is conscious.
  3. Cool the individual by fanning, misting with water, or applying ice packs.
  4. If necessary, loosen or remove heavy clothing.

Rememver that most heat-related illnesses can be prevented by taking appropriate precautions. Click here to check out the OSHA website for more information on heat illness prevention!

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