Summer Safety: Working in the Heat

Posted on Jul 1, 2015 by Brett Belau

After a long winter, most people celebrate the coming of summer and its longer days and warmer temperatures. For some, however, while these conditions may be ideal for recreation, they can make the workplace more dangerous.

The body rids itself of excess heat by circulating blood to the skin and by perspiring. If the body cannot get rid itself of enough excess heat, it has no choice but to store it, causing the body’s core temperature to rise and heart rate to increase. Excessive exposure to heat can cause several different medical issues that range in severity, from heat rash and heat cramps to the more serious heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Signs of heat exhaustion Signs of heat stroke
  • Dizziness
  • High body temperature
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Altered mental state or behavior
  • Chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Paleness
  • Flushed skin
  • Staggering, feeling dazed
  • Rapid breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Racing heart rate
  • Weak pulse and low body temperature
  • Headache

If you or one of your coworkers shows any of these symptoms, it’s important to act quickly. Seek medical attention, keep the victim lying down with their head lower than their feet. Loosen the victim’s clothing and administer fluids, if possible. Avoid ice water, as it can cause shock to the system.

Working in extreme heat also increases the risk of other injuries due to sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, or burns from hot surfaces or steam. With this in mind, it’s important to know several ways to prevent overexposure to heat and mitigate heat-related accidents.

  • See a doctor immediately if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above
  • Stay hydrated—drink plenty of cool liquids throughout the day to replace body salts lost through perspiring
  • Wear light, loose clothing
  • Always wear protective equipment, such as gloves
  • If your work environment is enclosed, but not air conditioned, ensure that there is ample ventilation
  • Rest when you feel dizzy or fatigued

When warm—and hot—weather rolls around, be prepared. Have a plan in place to deal with heat-induced injuries and respond quickly when you experience symptoms. Acting quickly can save lives!

Working on your construction safety plan for the cold weather months now? Click here for our tips on the winter safety tips.


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