Toolbox Talk: Watching out for Heat Stress
Working in extreme heat can cause occupational injuries and accidents. Heat stress can cause medical conditions like heat stroke, exhaustion and cramps, and accidents can result from dizziness, sweaty palms, and falls. In this toolbox talk, highlight measures to prevent heat stress and symptoms to look out for while working in hot conditions.
Watch for signs of heat stress in yourself and your fellow workers. Most of the time, they may not realize what is happening to them until heat sickness strikes. If signs of heat sickness occur, help the victim cool off by removing them to a cool place, fanning them, or soaking them with a cool, damp cloth.
When your body expends too much sweat through heavy work or working in hot conditions, you can become dehydrated. Your temperature can rise above 38C if your body doesn't have enough water to cool itself down. That's when a heat-related illness can emerge; Heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. The two illnesses of concern while working in hot climates are heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Heat Exhaustion happens when your body can no longer keep blood flowing to vital organs and cooling skin.
Signs of heat exhaustion
- Dizziness, feeling faint.
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Trouble resuming work
- Get medical care and try to cool down (drink cool water, get out of the sun, and loosen your clothes.
- Stay out of the sun for at least 30 minutes to cool the body down from heat exhaustion. If not treated quickly, it can worsen to heatstroke.
Heat Stroke is a medical emergency and happens when your body has used all of its water and salt and can no longer cool itself. Your temperature rises to dangerous levels.
- Confusion and irrational behaviour
- Convulsions or loss of consciousness
- Lack of sweating—hot, dry skin
- High body temperature—40°C or more.
If a co-worker shows symptoms of heatstroke, act fast.
- Call the emergency number or get them to a hospital.
- Immediately start to cool the worker down, get them to a cool location and bring down their temperature by fanning them or placing cool, damp towels on them.
- If they are unconscious, don't give them anything to drink.
Every spring, the temperature begins to increase, and that presents new hazards that could go unrecognized. Don't overload yourself. Give yourself the time required to adapt to the heat. Below are some tips for managing heat in the workplace.
- If your situation allows for it to wear light, loose clothing that lets sweat evaporate. Light-coloured clothing doesn't absorb as much heat from the sun.
- Drink at least 1 cup (250 ml) of water every half hour. Don't wait until you're thirsty.
- Avoid drinking beverages that make you have to go to the bathroom, such as coffee, tea, beer, or carbonated soft drinks. These are diuretics and dehydrate you further.
- Avoid eating large meals, which can increase your body temperature.
- Plan your heavy physical work first in the day before it starts getting hot.
- Be observant of the symptoms of heat stress in yourself and your co-workers.
Remember that your physical condition can reduce your ability to deal with the heat. Age, weight, fitness level, health conditions, recent illness, or medications can affect your capability to endure working in high temperatures.