When the temperature goes up, the risk of getting sick from the heat is increased. For this reason, some states require that employers implement a Heat Illness Prevention Program, which includes training, fresh, pure and suitable cool drinking water, shade, and time to get acclimated to the heat. Heat illness prevention procedures must be implemented during warm weather, and upgraded to high heat procedures when the temperature reaches certain temperatures which vary from state to state. Supervisors are required to be trained to check the weather so they know what to expect at the jobsites. Employees must be aware of their personal health and tolerance to heat, and report signs and symptoms of illness from heat to their supervisors as soon as they are recognized. Personal risks, such as caffeine consumption, medical conditions, age and diet can influence a person’s tolerance to heat. Alcohol consumption and certain medications can also be a factor. Drinking heavily the night before work can cause a worker to be very susceptible to heat illness the next day. Individuals should drink water on a regular basis, not wait until they are thirsty. “Healthy and hydrated” is the best condition for arrival at work. Enough potable water should be readily available so that each worker can drink up to one quart per hour. Water should be consumed throughout the shift. A worker should allow himself to get used to the heat, or acclimated, which can take up to two weeks. The average person will get acclimated by working two hours per day in the heat for four to fourteen days. Shade should be readily accessible at the worksite. It is required to be present at all times when the temperature reaches certain trigger points, and large enough to accommodate the number of workers on break at any given time, with enough room so workers do not need to be in physical contact with each other. If a worker begins to feel unusually fatigued, with a headache or nausea, they should report immediately to their supervisor. First aid or medical care should be available in accordance with site injury reporting procedures. An overheated worker should be given the opportunity to cool down, by sitting in the shade or air conditioning to help recover from the symptoms of heat exposure. Workers should not be sent home without being offered first aid or medical care if they feel sick. If a worker is overheated, and if their level of consciousness is altered, such as confused, or slow to respond verbally, then emergency treatment is required and EMS should be activated. All workers should know how to access emergency services for their worksite, and to accurately describe their location.
Terms to recognize:
HEAT CRAMPS – PAIN IN MUSCLES CAUSED BY ELECTROLYTE IMBALANCE – AN EARLY SIGN
HEAT SYNCOPE – FAINTING
HEAT STRESS – EARLY SYMPTOMS SUCH AS FATIGUE, HEADACHE
HEAT EXHAUSTION – LATER SYMPTOMS SUCH AS FATIGUE, HEADACHE, NAUSEA
HEAT STROKE – LIFE THREATENING SYMPTOMS INCLUDING ALTERED LEVEL OF CONSCIOUSNESS