Oregon OSHA reminds employers and employees to take precautions when temperatures and humidity rise this summer. Workers may be susceptible to heat exhaustion, which could progress to heat stroke and possibly even death if not treated promptly.
Employers can be proactive and protect their workers from heat exhaustion by encouraging them to do the following:
- Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
- Slowly build up tolerance to the heat and the work activity (this usually takes up to two weeks).
- Use the buddy system to monitor the heat (work in pairs).
- Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15-20 minutes).
- Wear light, loose fitting, breathable clothing (such as cotton).
- Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas - allow your body to cool down.
- Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
- Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these beverages make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).
If heat exhaustion does occur, it is important to treat the worker immediately. Employers and co-workers should learn to recognize signs of heat exhaustion, which can include extreme fatigue, nausea, light-headedness or headache, clammy and moist skin, a pale complexion, and a normal or only slightly elevated body temperature. The following steps can help workers suffering from heat exhaustion:
- Move them to a cool, shaded area. Don't leave them alone. If they are dizzy or light-headed, lay them on their back and raise their legs about 6-8 inches at the feet. If they are sick to their stomach, lay them on their side.
- Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
- Give them some cool water to drink (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
- Try to cool them by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
- If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call for emergency help (911).
For more information about work-related heat stress, go to: