heat exhaustion
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Heat exhaustion is a common and real risk for contractors. When workers are exposed to very high temperatures for a long period of time, they can develop heat exhaustion. This is especially true if they have not had enough to drink or are not properly protected.

Heat exhaustion, especially when combined with working on high scaffolding, can contribute to serious injury and even death. Here is some information about addressing the problem on your job site.

Risk Factors of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is not related directly to the actual heat outside so much as it is related to the heat index, a sort of reverse wind chill factor. Heat exhaustion is a measure of how hot a person feels due to temperature and humidity. High levels of humidity can interfere with the evaporation of sweat, which makes it harder for your body to cool down.

When the heat index is at 90 or higher, the risk of heat exhaustion soars. Pay attention to the heat index and keep a close eye on your workers — especially those who are exposed to full sunlight — in such situations.

Types of Heat Exhaustion

Do not confuse heat exhaustion with heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is less severe and comes before heat stroke. But, it can still be dangerous and, if not properly addressed, can progress to cause brain damage and injury to other internal organs. In the worst cases, death can result.

There are two main types of heat exhaustion: dehydration and salt depletion. The signs of each are as follows:

  • Dehydration: excessive thirst, headache, fainting, weakness and unconsciousness.
  • Salt Depletion: Vomiting, nausea, dizziness and muscle cramps.

Other Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion carries with it many common symptoms regardless of the type. If you notice any of these symptoms or those above in a co-worker or employee, get them off the job site immediately until they can be checked over by a qualified physician.

  • Dark urine, which is often a sign of dehydration
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Irregular Fatigue
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Paleness or a pallid complexion
  • A great deal of sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat

Treating Heat Exhaustion

Minor cases of heat exhaustion can be treated fairly easily. Get the exposed person out of the direct sun and heat, and let them rest in a room with air conditioning. Re-hydrate the victim with plenty of fluids that do not contain caffeine or alcohol. Loosen clothing to allow airflow to and from the body. If possible, allow them to take a cool shower or bath. Failing this, provide cool, damp sponges or rags that can be used to wipe down. Ice, fans and other cooling measures should be applied.

In general, such methods should provide relief within fifteen minutes. If not, call an emergency medical professional immediately to avoid progression to heat stroke. If the ailment advances, potentially fatal complications can result.

Have you had any experiences with heat exhaustion? We would like to hear your thoughts and ideas. Drop a note in the comments section and share your knowledge!