As most manufacturing and logistics professionals are painfully aware, summertime heat can be a real nuisance. But the reality is, it can be more than just uncomfortable — it can be downright deadly!
With planning, hydration and awareness, of course, bad outcomes like that are totally preventable.
For starters, you should learn to spot the signs of heat-related health issues. It’ll help you not only avoid lost productivity this summer, but potentially even save someone’s life.
climate and health: what’s next?
If it feels like it’s getting hotter at your worksite every day, that’s because it actually is — and it’s taking a toll on the health of people everywhere, too.
Look at the latest Climate and Health Outlook from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), for example. Comparing health records from the same summertime periods in 2021 and 2020, heat-related deaths increased dramatically across the board, but especially in the following states:
- from two to 145 in Washington
- from zero to 119 in Oregon
- from 12 to 25 in California
So it’s clearly time to take heat-related safety risks seriously.
Pro tip: For hands-on help with workforce planning related to summertime heat, you can always consult the Heat Safety Tool from OSHA-NIOSH. It provides real-time information about weather in your location alongside occupational safety and health recommendations. It’ll help you keep heat-safety risks like heat stress and heat stroke at bay for your workforce.
heat stress vs. heat stroke: what’s the difference?
While both heat stress and heat stroke are associated with elevated body temperature, they are by no means the same conditions. Familiarize yourself with the common symptoms below so you know how to take appropriate action if and when heat stress or heat stroke occur.
symptoms of heat stress
Heat stress — sometimes called “heat exhaustion” — is not usually serious, provided the body is able to cool down within a period of about 30 minutes. Symptoms include:
- chest pain
- heavy perspiration or damp and clammy skin
- labored breathing
- muscle cramps
- rapid heartbeat
- weakness or lightheadedness
symptoms of heat stroke
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, according to the CDC. It occurs when the body’s temperature rises and the sweating mechanism fails — the body is unable to cool down as a consequence. Worse, without immediate intervention, it can cause permanent disability or even death. Symptoms include:
- throbbing headache
- dizziness and lightheadedness
- lack of sweat, despite the heat
- red, hot and dry skin
- nausea and vomiting
what to do if an employee experiences heat stress
Knowing the warning signs of heat stress is an important first step, obviously. But what should you do if you actually observe them in a member of your workforce? Start with the following eight steps.
- Move the person to a cool, ventilated area.
- Lay the person down and elevate their legs.
- Check the person's rate of breathing.
- Try to lower the person's body temperature by using a fan or applying cold compresses.
- Have the person drink cool water.
- Monitor their vital signs, especially their pulse rate and heartbeat.
- Report the incident to the appropriate department.
- If necessary, call emergency personnel.
what to do if an employee experiences heat stroke
Make no mistake, any instance of heat stroke should be regarded as a medical emergency — after all, it might prove fatal if not properly (and promptly) treated. So if you suspect someone on your team is experiencing heat stroke, seek emergency medical assistance immediately.
6 simple heat-safety tips for summer
There’s no reason heat-related risks like heat stress or heat stroke should derail your workforce this summer. Just share the following six simple tips with your team.
- Drink water throughout the day, both on the job and when you’re at home.
- Work during off-peak hours when the sun is less intense, or stay out of the sun altogether.
- Take frequent breaks and cool down by sitting in shaded or air-conditioned areas.
- Wear loose, breathable cotton clothing, sunglasses and a hat.
- Use sunscreen.
- Be prepared. Stay up-to-date on heat-related training and maintain a healthy physical condition. An active lifestyle can help you build tolerance to the heat.
Looking to implement a best-in-class approach to safety at your organization today? Get in touch with Randstad to learn how we can help.