Summer doesn’t officially begin until next month, but the temperatures outside are already heating up. Many people look forward to the warmest season of the year, but those who work outdoors are already starting to sweat it.
Working in elevated temperatures is more than just uncomfortable — it can be very dangerous. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rules and regulations are carefully crafted to keep workers out of harm’s way while earning a living, so everyone needs to do their part to create and maintain a safe environment.
In 2014, OSHA received 2,630 reports of heat illness suffered by workers. Tragically, 18 people died from heat stroke and other related concerns while just doing their job. The good news is, heat illness and death are entirely preventable. Employers and employees need to recognize the symptoms associated with heat-related health concerns, and know how to prevent it.
Signs of Heat Exhaustion
People react to heat illness in different ways. Every worker who becomes dangerously overheated won’t exhibit all the signs below, but the presence of any should be considered a major warning sign.
- Headache, dizziness, fainting
- Weakness or wet skin
- Irritability or confusion
- Excessive thirst, nausea or vomiting
- No longer sweating, despite high outdoor temperatures
These symptoms should all be taken seriously, but confusion, vomiting and fainting might indicate a more serious case of heat exhaustion.
Tips to Prevent Heat Illness
OSHA requires employers to provide safe worksites, and part of that is keeping people protected when working in extreme heat. On its heat exhaustion awareness page, the agency said companies with workers exposed to high temperatures should create a complete heat illness prevention program.
Some of the preventative actions employers are expected to take include:
- Granting workers access to water, rest and shade
- Permitting extra breaks to workers not acclimated to the heat
- Planning ahead for emergencies and training employees on prevention techniques
- Keeping a close watch on workers for signs of heat illness
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