Work-related accident frequency rates increase in hot environments when the body is unable to cool itself by sweating and serious heat-induced illnesses can result.
Some issues to consider:
- Employees who work around steam, molten materials, fire and hot surfaces are at risk of burns
- Heat affects mental alertness and physical performance and may provoke irritability, anger and other mental states that may cause workers to overlook safety procedures
- Slippery hands and fogging of safety glasses may compromise safe work practices
- Workers who are not used to hot, humid climates tend to have lower heat-tolerance levels
- Workers who wear protective suits and/or respirators while performing physically demanding tasks are at greater risk of heat stress
Workers should be monitored for signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness and mood changes. Some conditions require checking workers’ baseline heart rates, recovery heart rates and oral temperatures.
"Preventive measures such as fans, air-conditioning and umbrellas can protect employees from heat and direct sunlight,” says Dr. Tiffany Shay Alexander at Sharp Rees-Stealy Occupational Health. “Wearing light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that act as a wicking layer will encourage sweat evaporation and help keep employees cool. Drinking plenty of fluids during rest breaks while avoiding alcohol and caffeine will help prevent dehydration."
The average American diet contains enough salt for acclimatized workers, even when sweat production is high. If salt replacement is required, experts advise adding a little extra salt to food; salt tablets are not recommended.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's occupational health services, please call 858-499-4957. To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego occupational medicine physician or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.
Source: The National Association of Occupational Health Professionals