Thankfully in Michigan, we don’t often see triple digit temperatures in the summer time. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get hot. And let’s not start on the humidity.
Our friends at Hastings Mutual Insurance Company have some real life stories about heat stress incidents they want to share with you, and helpful tips on how to beat the heat.
In the construction industry, an employee began installing a roof on a hot sunny morning. Two hours later, he complained of feeling ill and vomited. However, he continued working. At 3:00 pm, when he descended the ladder, he was disoriented and confused. He missed a step and fell to the ground. His supervisor and some of his co-workers drove him to the hospital and several hours later was pronounced dead. His internal body core temperature was approximately 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the agricultural industry, a young worker arrived for her shift at a vineyard. Her job required her to spend long hours tying grapevines in the sun. As the day wore on, the temperature skyrocketed, eventually reaching well into the triple digits. After nine hours of work, she collapsed from heat exhaustion. Two days later, she succumbed to the effects of the heat exhaustion and died. She was only 17 years old and her life was snuffled out due to overexposure to the heat.
Hastings Mutual Insurance Company wants you to know that the two above examples were totally preventable.
Here are three simple steps to defeat the heat:
Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. This is no mystery since our bodies are almost entirely composed of water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. By that point, you are already on your way to becoming dehydrated. A general rule of thumb is to drink 4 cups of water every hour. It is most effective to drink a small amount of water every 15 minutes.
Rest breaks help the body to recover.
Resting in the shade or air-conditioning helps the body to cool down.
More steps to reduce the risk of heat exhaustion:
1. Report symptoms of heat illness right away
2. Wear light-colored cotton clothing
3. Wear a hat
4. Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn
5. Watch out for persons who show signs of heat stress
6. Know where you are working in case you need to call 9-1-1
While waiting for medical assistance, you can help a person in distress by:
1. Moving the person to a cool, shady area
2. Loosen the person’s clothing
3. Fan air on the worker
4. Apply cool water or ice packs to his or her skin
Heat-Related Illness: Know the Signs
It’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness – acting quickly can save lives.
– Heat Stroke: It’s the most serious heat-related illness. Usually, when your body builds up heat, you sweat to get rid of the extra heat. With heat stroke, your body can’t cool down.
The symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature, and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1 if a person shows any signs of heat stroke.
– Heat exhaustion: Happens when your body loses too much water and salt through sweating.
The symptoms may include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating.
– Heat fatigue, heat cramps, and heat rash: These are less serious, but they are still signs of over exposure to heat.
As a business owner, you can prevent or reduce the chance of your employees falling into these situations by:
– Providing ample cold water for all employees in convenient, visible locations close to the work area.
– Encourage workers to drink water before they get thirsty, or about every 15 minutes.
– Offering plenty of breaks in a shady area or in an air-conditioning facility.
– Encourage employees to wear, or provide employees with light-colored and permeable clothing.
– Monitor workers for signs and symptoms of heat exposure and encourage employees to report symptoms of any heat-related illnesses.
– Train workers and supervisors about the hazards leading to heat stress and ways to prevent them.
– Implement an emergency plan and know what to do if someone is experiencing symptoms of a heat-related illness.
– Monitor weather conditions and reschedule jobs with high heat exposure to cooler times of the day.