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Play it cool: How to avoid heat-related illnesses

Watch for signs of heat exhaustion among workers.


Taking the heat in a metal foundry. PHOTO: FOTOLIA

Conditions in plants can suddenly overwhelm the body’s ability to deal with heat. This leads to potentially serious heat exhaustion caused by the body’s loss of water and salt through excessive sweating. Symptoms include: nausea; dizziness; muscle cramps or weakness; feeling faint; headache; fatigue; thirst; heavy sweating; and high body temperature.

The response to suspected heat exhaustion includes moving the afflicted worker to a cooler, shaded location; getting medical aid and staying with the person until help arrives; remove as much clothing as possible (including socks and shoes); applying a cool, wet cloth or ice to the head, face or neck; spraying the overwhelmed worker with cool water; and encouraging the person to drink water, clear juice or a sports drink.

Follow these tips to prevent heat exhaustion:

• Train workers and supervisors about the hazards leading to heat illness and prevention methods.

• Train workers to recognize symptoms in themselves and others. Encourage immediate reporting.

• Encourage workers to drink water frequently – a cup every 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate.

• It takes time to adjust to working in heat. Increase workloads and heat exposure gradually.

• Schedule frequent rest periods with water breaks in shaded or air-conditioned buildings.

• Heat exhaustion quickly turns into heat stroke, a medical emergency. Ensure workers are protecting themselves by hydrating and keeping cool.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) in Hamilton contributed this article. CCOHS provides information, training, education, management systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and the prevention of injury and illness in the workplace.

 

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