The blazing summer sun has never been known to be gentle. The extreme heat of the summers can be intolerable for everyone, but especially dangerous for the workers. According to the United States Department of Labor, 2012 saw an alarming number of 4,120 heat-linked worker casualties and 31 heat-linked deaths. In the absence of taking proper precautions, the intense heat could result in disastrous consequences including a fateful end to the worker's life.
Outdoor workers and those in harsh heat conditions ( construction workers, firefighters, farm workers, boiler room employees etc.) are always at a comparatively higher risk of suffering from heat-related breakdowns.Therefore, it is crucial for employers and employees to be aware of the various causes, effects and remedies of extreme heat conditions.
Here is a list of common heat stress side effects and their respective remedial courses, which could be taken in the event of one:
In the event of Heat Exhaustion:
Conditions of extreme heat can lead to relatively extreme sweating. Sweating means loss of essential water and salt from the body. Excessive and perpetual sweating can trigger intense fatigue, nausea, thirst, moist skin, muscle cramps, fast and shallow breathing as well as an unstable pulse rate. Therefore, it is crucial to supplement oneself continuously with enough water and salt intakes.
The affected person should be given cool water (or other non-alcoholic beverages) and made to rest in a cooler temperature. This will help bring their body temperature back to normal. Medical help should be sought immediately in case of more severe casualties.
In the event of Heat Stroke:
Heat stroke is the most serious and dreaded form of heat-induced illness. It occurs when the heat levels become unbearable for the body, resulting in an unusually high body temperature and breakdown of its sweating mechanism. Most heat strokes are accompanied by mental disorientation and hallucinations. Victims also experience confused speech, chills, intense headache, extreme sweating and high body temperatures. The victim should be shifted to a cooler temperature, and their body temperature should be stabilised through moistening their clothes or sprinkling cold water over them. Medical attention should be sought immediately.
In the event of Heat Syncope:
As the name suggests, Heat Syncope refers to a condition of fainting or passing out due to the excess heat. It is a moderate form of heat exhaustion. The affected worker should be immediately moved to a cooler atmosphere and administered with cool water and/or juices. Sports beverages like Gatorade and Sqwincher are good options for rehydrating the body with essential electrolytes, and should be carried along at all times.
In the event of Heat Cramps:
The continuous sweating in high temperatures results in excessive loss of salt and water from the body. Lower than normal body-salt levels can result in severe muscle convulsions. The convulsions are prominent in arms, thighs, calf and abdominal muscles. The victim should be made to rest in a cool place and given cool non-alcoholic fluids. The affected muscles should be administered to manually.
In the event of Heat Rash:
The perpetual heat of the summers can lead to frequent skin irritation, especially if one is wearing close-fitting clothes. The continuous sweating makes the clothes wet, which could result in blisters and inflammation on the skin. It is good to wear comfortable and loose fitting clothes (keeping occupational requirements in mind) while at work. The affected part should be kept bare. Dusting powder can also be applied to reduce the discomfort.
Prevention is always better than cure. Therefore, it is equally necessary to make sure that the odds for such incidents are always at a minimum. Workers could try and incorporate their physically-intensive jobs/outside jobs in the cooler hours of the shift. The employers should provide the workers access to ample amount of rest, water supplies(non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated) and a comfortable temperature to operate in. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages should be avoided as much as possible during work hours. Workers should stay away from falsely advertised over the counter drugs, and instead go for sports beverages. Drinks like Gatorade and Sqwincher should be taken in regular intervals of 20-30 minutes. Conducting awareness classes in the work area for highlighting the first aid regarding heat induced illness is also a positive step. A non-restrictive work culture where the employees have the liberty to take short pauses to replenish themselves, should be encouraged.