Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extremely hot or humid conditions. What’s more, approximately 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, according to OSHA.
We’ve already encountered record temperatures this summer, making it especially important to understand heat-related injuries and take proper precautions for your safety and the safety of those around you. We encourage members to take this time to review OSHA’s heat prevention guidelines as well as NECA’S Toolbox Talk on Heat Stress, which are both full of great information.
Heat-triggered Health Concerns
- Heat stroke is the most dangerous of all heat-related injuries. This occurs when your body loses the ability to regulate its own temperature. Symptoms include: the inability to sweat, dry and hot skin, mental confusion, convulsions, delirium, and loss of consciousness or even coma.
- Heat exhaustion occurs when you become dehydrated from working in high temperatures and/or humid conditions. Symptoms include: clammy, moist skin and pale complexion. These symptoms may also be accompanied by extreme fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, giddiness, and fainting.
- Heat cramps are muscle spasms (usually in the calf muscles) that occur as a result of dehydration.
If you or a coworker experience signs of heat-related injuries, tell your supervisor. If you suspect your coworker is suffering from a heat-related injury, we suggest moving him or her to a cooler place, soak his or her clothing with cool water, and offer small sips of water.
Tips | Water — Rest — Shade
- Wear sunscreen
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and very cold drinks (cold drinks can cause stomach cramps)
- Take breaks from the heat
- Plan for emergencies
- Monitor workers for signs of illness and injury
According to OSHA, the heat index can be used to help determine the risk of heat-related illness for outdoor workers. Depending on the heat index value, the risk for heat-related illness can range from lower to very high to extreme. As the heat index value goes up, more preventive measures are needed to protect workers.