Excessive heat exposure is attributed to approximately 400 deaths each year in the United States. During the hot summer months, outdoor workers, and those who work in hot environments, should be aware of the dangers of heat stress. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rashes. Heat stress can also increase workers' susceptibility of sustaining other injuries due to sweaty hands, fogged up safety glasses and dizziness.
Workers at risk for heat stress are those who work outdoors or in hot environments. These include construction workers, roadway workers, landscapers, firefighters, bakers, chefs, miners and factory workers. Workers over the age of 65, overweight, have high blood pressure or heart disease also possess an increased risk of heat stress.
Heat stroke is the most serious of heat induced injuries. It occurs when a person's body is unable to control its temperature. Within the first 15 minutes of heat stroke, an individual's body temperature can rise to 106° F.
Symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Hot, dry skin
- High body temperature
- Confusion and dizziness
- Slurred speech
Businesses that employ outdoor workers, or employees who work in hot environments, need to take extra precaution against heat stress. Scheduling hot jobs for the coolest part of the day and giving workers a chance to build up their body's resistance to excessive heat are options to decreasing heat related injuries. When businesses need employees for particularly demanding jobs, staffing extra man-power, providing workers with additional breaks than usual, and making sure plenty of cool water is available are all viable options. Employers should also monitor their at risk employees for any signs of heat stress.
Workers should also take precautionary steps to avoid heat related injuries. Wearing light colored, loose fitting and breathable clothes will help keep body temperatures normal. Taking breaks while working, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and knowing the warning signs of heat stress are also helpful precautionary measures.
Heat related injuries can cause death. Knowing the risks is crucial to staying healthy while working through the summer. Colorado's average high temperature is 98.8° F. Both employees and employers should commit to staying healthy through the summer heat.