According to the Weather Network, 2019 is predicted to be the hottest year in our history. The developing El Niño event will only contribute to the fact that this year we will very likely experience unprecedented levels of heat and forest fires. With predicted temperatures on the rise during the summer months, the risks of heat stress related illness are going to increase in the workplace. This is very concerning and extremely dangerous for workers that are unaware of the symptoms and conditions when working in a high-risk environment. In this article, we will look at what heat stress is, what the symptoms are, and how to properly monitor and treat potential illness and injuries to prepare you for the hot summer months.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress is a serious condition that occurs when the body temperature heats up faster than it can cool itself down. Naturally, the body sweats to cool itself however, this isn’t always enough.
The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety states that “Most people feel comfortable when the air temperature is between 20°C and 27°C and when the relative humidity ranges from 35 to 60%. When air temperature or humidity is higher, people feel uncomfortable. Such situations do not cause harm as long as the body can adjust and cope with the additional heat. Very hot environments can overwhelm the body’s coping mechanisms leading to a variety of serious and possibly fatal conditions.”
When exposed to extreme heat, people become at risk for either heat exhaustion, heat rashes, or heat stroke. The effects of heat stress can vary from mild to life-threatening, which is why noticing symptoms and treating them early can be crucial to saving a life.
Causes of Heat Stress
Some major causes of heat stress include:
- Air Temperature
- Poor health
- Physical extension
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of heat stress can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Here is a list of the different types of heat stress and their symptoms (arranged by the progression of severity)
- Heat Cramps
- Muscle cramps and spasms
- Heat Exhaustion
- Increased heart rate
- Heat Stroke
- Nausea & vomiting
- no longer sweating
- Irregular pulse
- Cardiac arrest
Prevent Heat-Related Illness – Technical Guidelines for lone workers.
- Drink water every 15-20 minutes
- Take frequent breaks in shade/air-conditioned room
- Acclimatize to the environment
- Exposure limits
- Establish safety checkin-in procedure
According to Berg Insight; International Data Corporation, there are 53 million lone workers in North America and Europe alone – which is approximately 15% of the overall workforce! International Data Corp. also predicts that by 2020, 72% of the workforce will be mobile.
Many of those mobile users will be lone workers that will be working alone continuously, or at sporadic times throughout their workday in the heat nonetheless. Due to the high heat temperatures in the state of California, the state’s specifically has an OSHA health illness prevention program for all outdoor places of employment which requires all employees working in isolation some examples include:
- Employees are encouraged to take a preventative cool-down rest in the shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees Celsius).
- Ensuring that effective communication by voice, observation, or electronic means is maintained so that employees at the work site can contact a supervisor when necessary. An electronic device, such as a cell phone or text messaging device, may be used for this purpose only if cell reception in the area is reliable.
- (2) Observing employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness. The employer shall ensure effective employee observation/monitoring by implementing one or more of the following:
- (A) The supervisor or designee observation of 20 or fewer employees, or
- (B) A mandatory buddy system, or
- (C) Regular communication with solo employee such as by radio or cellular phone, or
- (D) Other effective means of observation.
- (3) Designating one or more employees on each worksite as authorized to call for emergency medical services and allowing other employees to call for emergency services when no designated employee is available.
Consider getting a complete safety network on all your devices by investing in an automated lone worker software. Workers check-in using their regular devices, and if they need help, monitors will be alerted. Many lone worker software’s have features that will provide peace of mind to lone workers and help mitigate the risks of heat stress.
For companies in the United States of America please visit our sister product at www.scatterling.co and for Canadian companies looking for a lone worker software solution please visit our contact page.
Did you know that there are simple things that workers can apply to make life less stressful in the workplace? Visit our blog article 5 Ways to Manage Workplace Stress