Mitigating Heat Related Illnesses

Next week it is projected to be well above 105 degrees in the valley. With all of the fun that come along with summer there is also a major increased risk factor of heat-related medical conditions due to heat stress. Every year thousands of heat-related worker sickness and fatality cases are reported and the numbers increase each year.

What is heat stress? Heat stress can occur when someone is exposed to a usually hot environment while at work, inside or outside, causing the body to heat up. The normal body response to this increase in body temperature is to try to release this excess heat from the body to maintain a healthy internal temperature.

When the body cannot release this excess heat, it causes heat stress within the body that can cause an increased body temperature or increased heart rate. There are several varying stages and symptoms of heat stress everyone needs to be aware of to be able to quickly identify and to address heat stress. The various stages of heat stress include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

The main key to prevent heat stress is by proper hydration. Prior to being exposed to a potentially hot activity or area, remember to drink plenty of fluids hours before your activity occurs. Remember, it is very difficult and almost impossible to try to “catch up” on replacing bodily fluids if pre-hydration does not occur. Other ways to help prevent or mitigate heat stress is by the use of engineering controls such as fans or air conditioning when possible, completing strenuous activities earlier in the day when it is cooler, taking frequent breaks during the day, drinking plenty of fluids such as water and avoiding caffeinated or alcohol containing drinks, using cooling bands around the neck or head regions, avoiding outdoor activities during high heat index hours, and wearing light colored and loose fitting clothing.

Remember that heat-stress illnesses can affect anyone of any age, body type, or gender, and symptoms of these illnesses can change very quickly which could take someone that is having heat cramp symptoms to heat exhaustion or heat stroke symptoms if left unidentified. With the proper hydration, identification, and planning everyone can prevent heat-stress illnesses while at work or at home.

Is your company ready for the summertime heat and has done the Cal OSHA-required employee training? Do you have a written policy that has been updated to comply with recent Cal OSHA requirements?

Please call your HR Ideas safety professional for more information or assistance before it is too late.

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