When working in hot environments body temperature may rise, and the body responds by sweating. As the sweat evaporates it cools the body. If the process does not work several heat related illnesses may occur. Water is key to this process by providing adequate blood volume to transfer heat outward and perspiration to cool the body.
- Humidity which may inhibit evaporation of sweat.
- Inadequate water intake.
- High ambient air temperature or radiant heat from blast furnaces or sunshine.
- Various protective clothing that may add to the heat load of the employee.
Heat Related Illnesses
Sweat duct becomes blocked and sweat accumulates in the gland. Heat rash is uncomfortable and can lead to more serious disorders due to lack of sweating.
Apply drying lotion and powder.
Regular bathing keeps skin dry and clean.
Common among workers not acclimated to working in hot environments. Caused by blood pooling in lower extremities.
Remove employee to cooler area and lay down briefly, recovery is prompt and complete.
Proper acclimatization and avoid standing erect for extended periods of time; move around.
Painful spasms of the muscles used during or after work; caused by excessive loss of salt from sweating.
Consumption of electrolyte replacement beverage.
Adequate salt intake during meals. No need for salt tablets, normal diet has ample salt. Begin drinking replenishing fluids one to two hours before beginning work in hot environment.
Fatigue, nausea, headache, rapid heart rate and moist clammy skin. Can progress to heat stroke.
Rest in cool area and drink fluids. Severe cases may require intravenous fluids.
Acclimatization of worker and drinking ample water during work.
Elevated body temperature, unconsciousness or convulsions, lack of sweating and possible vomiting and diarrhea.
A medical emergency that requires professional medical treatment. Move patient to cool area, bath in cool water or cover in cool water soaked towels. Remove outer clothing and treat for shock. Give no oral liquid if convulsing or unconscious.
Warning: Pregnant women, especially in the first trimester, are at increased risk for birth defects if body temperature is evaluated for extended periods of time. Consult a physician.
Adequate fluid intake
Drink ample fluids throughout the day.
- BEST: plain cool (50-60 degrees F) water.
- AVOID: alcohol, caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee which are diuretics, and excessive carbohydrates such as soda and fruit juice which can inhibit water uptake.
- Increase rest periods throughout the day.
- Job rotation for high exposure jobs.
- Schedule hot work for cooler periods in the day.
- Employee and supervisor training on heat related issues.
To encourage workers to drink water is should be readily accessible and kept clean and cool.
Acclimatized worker will have increased ability to work in heat and be more resilient to the stress. The process takes 4 to 7 days and there is a substantial loss when workers leave the work routine for one week or more and must be reacclimatized.
A physician can help identify high risk groups that are more susceptible to heat stress. Screen for the following:
- Physically fit – poor muscle conditioning and obesity limit heat dissipation.
- Medications taken by employees may adversely affect thermoregulation. Employees should notify their supervisor of medications they are taking.
Fans can be used to increase circulation and increase evaporation of sweat.
- If air temperature is greater than 95 degrees F then fans should not be used, they will actually heat worker. Average skin temperature is 95 degrees F. In this case the air temperature must be reduces with auxiliary cooling methods.
- Shields and barriers to protect worker from direct radiant heat source.