Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms and How to Keep Your Staff Safe in the Heat

Heat Exhaustion: How to Spot It and How to Keep Your Staff Safe

Heat exhaustion and stress is one of the most common workers’ compensation injuries employees suffer while on the job. Exposure to extreme heat can be very dangerous and even life-threatening. As an employer, it’s essential to protect your workers from heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What is Heat Exhaustion and/or Stroke?

Exposure to prolonged heat can cause heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash, and even heat stroke, which is the most dangerous form of heat stress. There are a few risk factors to be aware of to help protect your people from any of these dangerous conditions.

Risk Factors of Heat Exhaustion

  • Exposure to extreme heat, humidity, direct sunlight, and no breeze
  • No tolerance for high heat
  • Hard physical labor in the heat
  • Dehydration, not drinking enough liquids
  • Waterproof clothing

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Weakness and sweating
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Thirst
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting or queasy stomach

Symptoms of Heat Stroke/Exhaustion

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are advanced forms of heat stress and may include confusion, passing out, and seizures. Initially, victims may stop sweating and be unable to think clearly.

How to Prevent Heat Stroke

To prevent heat-related illness and injuries in your workforce, you should first educate yourself on the symptoms and risk factors. Some other tips include:

  • Create a heat stroke prevention plan
  • Train management and workers on how to prevent and monitor heat stroke
  • Provide cool water to workers regularly (1 pint/hour)
  • Allow frequent breaks for workers who are doing physical labor in hot conditions
  • Provide water breaks and shaded areas
  • Allow people who have a low tolerance for heat to acclimate
  • Educate management on monitoring workers for heat exhaustion
  • Provide clothing and equipment that helps workers stay cool (fans/AC)

How to Protect Your Staff and Workers

Some of the ways you can protect your entire workforce from the effects of extreme heat are to:

  • Educate yourself and workers on heat-related illnesses
  • Use a buddy system so that workers monitor workers watching for warning signs
  • Use equipment to provide shade from the hot sun
  • Urge all workers to drink water every 15 minutes or more
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine, which dehydrates the body
  • Require a dress code of lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing if applicable, unless it would pose a danger to the employee

What to Do if Someone Suffers Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. The person’s body temperature could easily reach 104, resulting in severe injury or death. If a worker shows signs of heat stroke:

  • Cool the body with cold, wet towels
  • Contact 911 immediately
  • Move them to a shady area
  • Remove clothing and use fans or AC to cool them down
  • Use ice to cool them if possible
  • Apply cold compresses to their head
  • Make them take small sips of cool water

In situations like this, it is always best to err on the side of caution and get the worker immediately medical attention. 

Your best defense against heat-related illness is education and worker training. For more information, contact DMAC Security.

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