Soon, sweltering summer conditions will plague construction crews and other outdoor workers. Scorching May to September weather ranks Arizona among the earth’s hottest locales. Toiling long hours in extreme temperatures increases the risk for employee illness and injury. Every year, emergency rooms across the state treat almost 2,000 patients for heat-related complaints. Over 1,500 residents died from severe natural heat exposure between 2000 and 2012.
National PEO’s heat stress training will prepare your employees to identify warning signs, understand their causes, avert incidents, and treat symptoms to avoid serious harm and fatalities. Review the Arizona Department of Health Services’ safety tips to protect your team and minimize workers’ compensation claims.
Heat escaping through staffers’ skin and perspiration cool them naturally. Anyone unable to do so properly or sufficiently can be vulnerable to heat-induced illnesses. At-risk workers include outdoor, overweight, and sick employees along with those taking certain medications. Untreated heat-related conditions can range from serious to deadly. To ensure personal protection:
Drink more water: Consume one to two liters of water every hour of outside shifts. Take extra care during strenuous activities when depleting up to four liters hourly is possible. Keep liquids handy, and drink regularly — even when you do not feel thirsty. Omit caffeine, which has dehydrating effects. Do not take salt tablets except on doctor’s orders.
Dress for heat: Lightweight, breathable, light-colored work attire and hard hats help reflect the sun’s energy. Protect exposed skin with sunscreen.
Make dietary modifications: Eat smaller meals more often. Skip high-protein foods that may raise metabolic heat.
Limit heat exposure: Schedule strenuous activities for the coolest hours between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. Work in shaded, covered, or indoor environments throughout the hottest interval from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Take breaks: Rest during frequent cool-down breaks in shaded areas or more comfortable places. Whenever physical exertion causes heat-related symptoms, stop for breathers in ventilated locations.
Be alert: As temperatures rise, watch for the following illness stages and perform appropriate care.
Symptoms: Thirst indicates that mild dehydration has occurred already.
Treatment: Ingesting water promptly in cooler areas may prevent more serious stages.
Signs: Heavy exertion and sweating reduce bodily salt and water levels. Mild to very painful muscular spasms may result in leg or abdominal muscles.
First aid: Take a break from physical stress to rest in air-conditioned comfort. Consume half a glass of cool water or a sports drink every 15 minutes. Stretch cramped muscles slightly, holding extensions 20 seconds. Massage relaxed regions gently. Repeat as necessary. When no other heat symptoms are present, resume work after cramping subsides.
Indicators: This condition occurs typically when personnel lose body fluids through heavy perspiration while working in warm, muggy places. Due to high humidity rates or excess clothing layers, sweat does not evaporate properly. Depleted fluids decrease blood flowing in vital organs, causing shock. Insufficient cooling signals include:
- Moist, cool, pale skin that may appear flushed or reddish following demanding activities
- Profuse sweating
- Near normal body temperature
- Skin temperature that feel hot in some cases
- Vomiting or nausea
- Exhaustion or weakness
Remedies: Stop physical activities, move to a breezy or indoor location, and rest in a relaxed position. When alert, fill half a glass with a caffeine-free sports drink or chilled water. Hydrate slowly every 15 minutes. Loosen or remove tight clothes. Drape cool, damp cloths on exposed skin, or mist with water. Other crewmembers should call 9-1-1 if workers refuse fluids, vomit, or lose consciousness.
Signals: Life-threatening sunstroke or heatstroke occurs when staffers’ internal temperature-control systems stop functioning. The mechanisms that should instigate perspiration cannot refresh overheated workers. Body temperatures can climb high enough to cause brain damage or death if victims do not cool down quickly. Variable signs may include:
- Moist skin if still sweating
- Red, hot, dry skin if perspiration has stopped
- Body temperatures that may reach 105° F
- Throbbing headache
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Quick, weak pulse
- Decreased alertness or unconsciousness
Emergency care: Other personnel must call 9-1-1 immediately. While waiting on help, relocate victims to ventilated areas. Use available cooling methods quickly. Wrap numerous cold or ice packs in cloths. Apply them over large blood vessels at wrists, ankles, and armpits, as well as the neck. Wrap workers in wet sheets and place them in reclining positions in front of air conditioners or fans. Omit rubbing alcohol that closes pores, trapping internal heat. Make sure airways are clear, and watch for breathing problems.