Prevent Heat-Related Illness This Summer

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Safety & Risk Consultant
+1 763 746 8295
+1 651 425 8373
May 21, 2018Minnesota

Summer heat can be more than uncomfortable—it can be a threat to your employee’s health, especially for older adults. Do not let the summer heat get the best of your employees.  Working, training or playing in extreme heat can be dangerous.  If an employee doesn’t take the proper care, exposure to extremely hot environments can lead to life-threating medical conditions.

Remind all your employees if they are feeling thirsty it means their body is becoming dehydrated. Do not wait until then, especially if working or exercising outside in extreme heat. Ensure employees have access to cool water throughout the day or drinks that replace electrolytes. A cold towel around the neck does wonders to make the body feel better.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps occur when the muscles are not getting the nutrients they need to perform the work. Employees need to make sure to replace these nutrients or electrolytes when exposed to excessive heat.

Symptoms:

  • Muscles cramping
  • Sweating
  • Headache

First aid for heat cramps:

  • Have the person rest and cool off
  • Have the person drink something with sugar and electrolytes, such as a sports drink or juice, or water if these aren’t available
  • If the person can tolerate it, apply a bag with ice and water wrapped in a towel to the cramping area for up to 20 minutes

Heat Exhaustion

A milder condition, such as heat cramps, can quickly turn into heat exhaustion. That’s why it’s important to recognize and give first aid for heat-related emergencies early.

Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling faint or fatigued
  • Heavy sweating

First Aid:

  • Have the person lie down in a cool place
  • Remove as much of the person’s clothing as possible. They are overheating and you want to help them cool off
  • Cool the person with a cool water spray.  If a cool water spray is not available, place cool, damp cloths on the neck, armpits and groin
  • If the person is responsive and can drink, have the person drink something with sugar and electrolytes, such as a sports drink or juice, or water if these aren’t available

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a dangerous condition that is life threatening. It is important to begin cooling a person who might have heat stroke immediately--every minute counts. I f you can’t immerse the person in water, try to cool them with a cool water spray or cold compresses.  If the person starts behaving normally again, stop cooling them.

Symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Felling faint or fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • The person has stopped sweating 

First Aid:

  • Remove from the heat
  • Put the person in cool water up to his or her neck if possible, or spray them with cool water
  • If the person becomes unresponsive and is not breathing normally or only gasping, give CPR

Tips for Staying Cool

Below are some tips for staying safe in the heat.

  • Drink plenty of water. In hot weather, drink enough to quench your thirst. The average adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day and even more during heat spells.
  • Dress for the weather. When outside, wear lightweight clothing made of natural fabrics and a well-ventilated hat.
  • Stay inside if possible. Do errands and outside work early or late in the day.
  • Eat light. Replace heavy or hot meals with lighter, refreshing foods.
  • Think cool! Take a cool shower or apply a cold compress to your pulse points. 

OSHA /NIOSH Heat Safety Tool (Heat Index)

This app tells you the heat index of your location and shows you an hour-by-hour heat index map for the day.  It also shows a risk thermometer for the day with precautions to take to keep employees safe.  This can be used for identifying cooling needs for the day along with brief safety meetings about the heat your employees will be exposed to that day.  The app also gives the signs and symptoms as well as first aid actions.

For more information or for training, please contact your local Marsh & McLennan Loss Control representative for assistance.