What do chefs, construction workers and smelters all have in common? They perform strenuous activities in hot, humid, sticky conditions, which can boost body temperatures and cause workers to feel dehydrated, drowsy and ill. What is heat stress? Heat stress occurs when your body’s regulatory processes break down, sending your body temperatures skyrocketing and increasing your chances of heat stroke. Between 1999 and 2003, more than 3,400 deaths in the United States were the result of exposure to extreme heat. Each year, more people die from heat exposure than lightning, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes combined.
Who Is At Risk?
If you are exposed to hot conditions in your job, you could be at risk of heat stress. Workers that wear bulky clothing or carry heavy equipment in warm temperatures, such as those in the transportation, construction, trade, agriculture and landscaping industries, could be most at risk for a heat-related illness.
The symptoms of heat stress include blurred vision, nausea, muscle spasms, fatigue, confusion and headache. If not treated, heat stress can worsen rapidly and cause a stroke or even death. Workers are at risk of heat stress because core body temperatures rise in hot conditions, increasing the amount of perspiration a person produces, which can then result in dehydration. A worker’s heart rate can also increase, placing stress on his or her body.
Prevent Heat Stress
You can prevent heat stress when working in hot conditions by limiting the amount of time you spend in the heat and keeping yourself cool with wet towels or a fan. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can also help, especially when a garment is manufactured from natural fibers like cotton or linen. You will need to drink lots of water during your shift and take regular breaks.
Treat Heat Stress
If a colleague shows symptoms of heat stress, move him or her out of the heat and into the shade. Remove any tight-fitting clothing and provide your co-worker with plenty of water. Monitor the situation closely because heat stress can develop into exhaustion if a person is dehydrated. If his or her condition gets worse, or your colleague is not responding, call an ambulance.
Heat stress can be caused by vigorous activity in high temperatures. Take the right precautions when it comes to staying hydrated so you don’t place too much strain on your body and become exhausted or dehydrated. By limiting the amount of time you spend in the heat, you’ll keep yourself from becoming a victim of heat stress.