Like ladder safety, heat illness prevention is key

Outdoor workers are extremely susceptible to heat related illnesses. Employers should take note of the different types and symptoms associated.

Like ladder safety, protecting workers from heat related illnesses is just as vital. Understanding the types and signs of heat stress can help employers remain cognizant of symptoms and take necessary measures to prevent injury to their outdoor workers.

Recognizing heat stress

The Centers for Disease Control has provided in-depth information about the five different types of heat stress and the varying symptoms they go in tandem with each.

  • Heat stroke happens when the human body temperature reaches dangerously high levels as a result of the inability to cool down. Along with severe sweating and dizziness, symptoms of heat stroke can also include hallucinations, slurred speech, confusion, or severe headache.
  • Heat exhaustion occurs when the human body has lost too much water via sweat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion can include flushed complexion, lots of sweating, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps.
  • Heat syncope occurs when an individual faints or experiences an episode of severe dizziness or lightheadedness. This can occur after standing too long or standing up suddenly after lying down.
  • Heat cramps, like heat exhaustion, occur if the body has lost too much water but also salt content. Painful muscle cramps often occur if muscles have depleted salt levels. Muscle aches, pains, or spasms are the most common symptoms.
  • Heat rash happens when sweat causes skin irritations. Symptoms of heat rash typically include blisters or pimples and are usually found in the elbow creases, neck, chest, and groin.

It's important to note that outdoor workers are not just more susceptible to heat disorders than workers in other professions; they are also more susceptible to injuries because of the heat.

Outdoor workers are prone to sweaty hands, safety glasses that can get fogged-up from the heat, and even burns from surfaces that get hot from the sun. Outdoor workers can be at risk of insect bites, exposure to poisonous plants, or even venomous organisms.

Preventative steps

The CDC recommends employers take preventative steps to mitigate the potential for heat illnesses. These include:

  • Remaining cognizant of outdoor temperatures on any given day
  • Scheduling hot jobs for cooler days or in the early morning hours
  • Allowing additional breaks or utilize relief workers during very hot days
  • Providing plenty of water and shaded areas for workers

Employee training is also important. Employers are encouraged to educate employees about the signs and symptoms of heat stress, what they can do to get help, and how to file a workers' compensation claim in the event they are injured due to a heat related illness or injury.

Keywords: outdoor workers, heat stress, heat related illnesses, symptoms