Handling Heat and Humidity

With climbing temps and high humidity levels, it doesn’t take long to feel the effects of heat-related illnesses. Agricultural and construction workers exposed to outdoor conditions and direct sunlight are at an increased risk of danger. Fortunately, there are some preventive steps that can be taken.

Heat Stroke vs. Heat Exhaustion

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) explains the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of the water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Workers most prone to heat exhaustion are those that are elderly, have high blood pressure, and those working in a hot environment.

Symptoms include headache, nausea, decreased urine output, and weakness.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down. When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106°F or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

Symptoms include confusion, altered mental status, slurred speech, hot dry skin and loss of consciousness.

Source: NIOSH: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/heatrelillness.html


5 Tips to Dodge Heat-Related Illness

When you’re working in the heat, safety comes first. Use these five tips from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to avoid the dangers of health-related illnesses.

  1. Drink 4 to 8 ounces of water or sports drink every 20 minutes while working in hot, humid conditions.
  2. Limit the intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages.
  3. Wear light-colored clothing.
  4. Know the signs and symptoms of heat stress; use the buddy system to monitor one another for these signs/symptoms.
  5. If someone shows signs of heat stress (exhaustion or stroke), request immediate medical attention, move the individual to a cooler area in the shade, loosen or remove restrictive or heavy clothing, provide cool drinking water, and fan and mist the person with water.

Source: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/hurricane/recommendations.html#heat

Other Resources
  1. Water. Rest. Shade: A Guide for Employers to Carry Out Heat Safety Training for Workers. Available in [English] and [Spanish].
  2. Heart Safety Tool (Mobile phone app). Click https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/heat_index/heat_app.html
  3. Other heat-related illnesses, including heat syncope, rash, and cramps, click HERE.