During emergency response activities or recovery operations, workers may be required to work in hot environments, and sometimes for extended periods. When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heat-induced illnesses can occur, and can result in death. The following information will help workers understand what heat stress is, how it may affect their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.
Factors Leading to Heat Stress
* High temperature and humidity; direct sun or heat; limitetd air movement; physical exertion; poor physical condition; some medicines; inadequate tolerance for hot workplaces; and insufficient water intake can all lead to heat stress.
What kind of heat disorders and health effects are possible and how should they be treated?
* Heat Stroke is the most serious heat related disorder and occurs when the body temperature regulation fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. It is a medical emergency that may result in death. The primary signs and symptoms of heat stroke are confusion; irrational behavior; loss of consciousness; convulsions; a lack of sweating (usually); hot, dry skin; and an abnormally high body temperature. If a worker shows signs of possible heat stroke, professional medical treatmemt should be obtained immediately. Until professional medical treatment is available, the worker should be placed in a shady, cool area and the outer clothing should be removed. Douse the worker with cool water and circulate air to improve evaporative cooling. Provide the worker fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible.
* Heat Exhaustion is only partly due to exhaustion; it is a result of the combination of excessive heat and dehydration. Signs and symptoms are headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst, and giddiness. Fainting or heat collapse is often associated with heat exhaustion. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion should be removed from the hot environment and given fluid replacement. They should also be encouraged to get adequate rest, and when possible, ice packs should be applied.
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