Suggested Safety Topic July: Working Outside in Hot Weather

If you live in the south, summer means high temperatures combined with high humidity. That is also the recipe for heat stress.  We offer the following suggestions and precautions for employees who work outside. Try to avoid really heavy work during the middle part of the day. You can help prevent heat illness by drinking fluids constantly. Drink lots of water!  If you get dehydrated while working in hot weather, it can cause heat exhaustion, cramps, heat rashes or even heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency which requires immediate medical attention.  Call 911 if you suspect that an employee is suffering from heat stroke.  Heat stroke occurs when the body’s system of temperature regulation fails and the body’s temperature rises to critical levels. The primary signs and symptoms are confusion; irrational behavior; loss of consciousness; convulsions; hot/dry skin and abnormally high body temperature.  Professional medical treatment should be sought immediately. The employee should be moved to a shady area and his outer clothing removed until help arrives. Even if the employee insists, if you suspect heat stroke do not sent him home or leave him unattended until a physician gives the approval to do so.

Heat exhaustion is caused by losing large amounts of fluid, by sweating, sometimes with excessive loss of salt.  The symptoms are similar to heat stroke and include fainting, weakness, fatigue, thirst, vertigo, headache, giddiness or nausea, but body temperature remains close to normal. Remove the employee from the hot environment and give him plenty of fluids and rest.  The employee should recover quickly if he is suffering from heat exhaustion.

Heat cramps are painful spasms of muscles that usually occur when an employee has been performing physical labor in a hot environment.  They are probably caused by an electrolyte imbalance caused by sweating profusely. They can be caused by too much or too little salt.  The employee needs fluid replacement.  When doing physical labor in a hot environment, water should be taken every 15 to 20 minutes even if the employee is not thirsty.  Heat rashes are common in hot environments.  They usually appear as red papules in areas of skin where clothing is restrictive.  You may have a prickling sensation. They can become infected but usually disappear when the employee returns to a cool environment.

Another common problem you may encounter, while working outside, in hot weather,is sunburn. Wear sunscreen or sun-block on your exposed skin every day!

Nothing above supersedes local, state or federal laws. Information is believed to be reliable but Canal HR makes no guarantee as to, and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of the above information and recommendations. Additional safety measures may be required in some circumstances.