Heatin’ Up

 In 2021, Tip of the Week

The map you are looking at is from the National Weather Service. It shows the high temperatures for this past May 6th, which was not the hottest day last week. The redder portions of the map show where the hotter areas of the US were for that day. The green and the little area of blue on the north side Maine were where it was the coolest.

It’s heating up! Summer is almost here. It’s a good time to remind everyone to stay cool, particularly those who work outdoors. California employers are required by our own OSHA to provide four cups of water each hour and have access to shade readily available. Once temperatures reach 80 degrees, employees should take a “preventative cool-down break” at least five minutes long in the shade when feeling symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Federal OSHA has similar guidelines for heat related illnesses, linked here: https://www.osha.gov/heat/, which stresses “water, rest, shade.”

So why should we care? Heat-related illnesses take their toll on outdoor workers. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 2004 and 2018, there was an average of 702 deaths per year attributed directly or as a contributing factor to heat-related illnesses happening on the job. That’s about two people every day who came to work but did not go home.

No one wants to “not go home.” How do we know if we are having symptoms of these heat-related illnesses and need to take that preventative cool-down break? Here’s a brief summary of the symptoms of the two most serious heat-related illness:

Heat Stroke: This is the most serious of the heat-related illnesses. If someone has these symptoms, get them out of the heat and call 9-1-1 immediately! Do not give them anything to drink, instead pour cool water over them. Then fan them until help arrives. Common symptoms are:

  • Bright red, hot, dry skin. They are unable to sweat to cool themselves down.
  • Mental confusion, delirium, hallucinations, irrational behavior or loss of consciousness.
  • Throbbing headache.
  • Slurred speech, convulsions – seizures.
  • Body temperature of 104° F or higher.
Heat Exhaustion: This can also be a serious illness. Move this person to shade, give them water to drink. Remove heavy clothing. If their symptoms, listed here, do not improve, call 9-1-1.

  • Heavy sweating.
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue.
  • Dizziness, confusion.
  • Nausea.
  • Clammy, moist skin.
  • Pale or flushed complexion.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Slightly elevated body temperature.
  • Fast and shallow breathing.
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