In early July, a Southern California mail carrier was found dead in her mail truck on a blistering hot afternoon.
Although it’s not yet clear whether her demise was a reaction to the extreme heat, OSHA is investigating. And, of course, there’s nothing mysterious about the negative health impacts caused by working in heat.
Heat-related illness includes heat stress, a condition resulting from the body’s inability to cope with the heat. In turn, heat stress can result in heat cramps, heat rash, heat exhaustion, fainting, and heat stroke. Symptoms can include disorientation, cold, pale, clammy skin, a fast, weak pulse, and heavy sweating.
If your team must occasionally work in heat, it’s important to train them to prevent heat-related illness. They must also know what to do if a worker shows signs of heat-related illness.
Preventing and Responding to Heat-Related Illness
To prevent heat-related illness, make sure your workers:
- Use sunscreen.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Drink plenty of other water or other fluids (avoiding caffeinated, sugary, or alcoholic beverages).
- Have access to cool, shady areas for breaks.
If a worker shows signs of heat-related illness, your workers should know what steps to take:
- Move the worker to a cooler location.
- Have the worker lie down and loosen any constrictive clothing.
- Apply wet, cool cloths to the worker’s skin.
- Have the worker sip water.
- Be prepared to call 911 if the worker
- Has a temperature above 103°F
- Has hot, red, dry, or moist skin
- Is continuously vomiting
- Has a rapid, strong pulse
- Is unconscious
Have a safe, productive summer!
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