Temperatures are heating up across the country, and outdoor workers face very real risks from the sun and heat. Heat exhaustion can set in—and if no action is taken, heat stroke can hit. And heat stroke isn’t a minor problem. It requires emergency treatment, and untreated heatstroke can quickly damage a worker’s brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. If heat stroke is left long enough, serious complications or death can result.
What You Can Do
So how can you help protect your outdoor workers? It’s simple — provide workers with water, rest, and shade.
OSHA suggests the following:
- Encourage workers to drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
- Provide workers with shade to cool down—and encourage them to use it.
- Ensure workers wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
- Make sure supervisors are keeping an eye on workers to watch for signs of heat exhaustion.
The Signs of Heat Exhaustion
If you notice the following signs displayed by any worker, tell them to stop working and rest in a cool place, drinking cool water or a sports drink. If symptoms do not improve, workers should be taken to a doctor immediately.
- Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
- Heavy sweating
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure upon standing
- Muscle cramps
The Signs of Heat Stroke
If heat exhaustion progresses to a heat stroke, workers will have a body temperature of 104 degrees or higher. At this point, there is an emergency, and 911 should be called. When they have heat stroke, workers may experience confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma.
It’s much easier (and safer) to protect workers from heat exhaustion and heat stroke than it is to treat them once the heat has done its damage. Just remember: water, rest, shade!