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Working in Hot Conditions Guidelines Introduction/Overview
Heat, whether it's inside or outside, can be a health hazard. If you don't know when enough becomes too much, you can suffer from some form of heat stress. That can be a momentary problem or something more serious. And it can strike you down at work or at play.
We try to keep conditions from getting unhealthy, but some jobs, such as welding or working in confined spaces, can get pretty hot. And some people are more easily affected by heat than others.
So we're going to review the conditions that can cause heat-related health problems, the symptoms to watch out for , and the actions to take if they strike you, one of your co-workers, or a family member of friend outside the workplace.
Your body is designed to operate within a fairly narrow temperature range. If you body temperature goes too high, you get sick.
Heat exhaustion is a risk if you're physically active when it's hot. You'll probably get dizzy and sweaty, but it's not likely to be life-threatening.
Heatstroke is much more serious. It is also a hazard when you're physically active in hot conditions. But heatstroke can send your body temperature so high that you become unconscious.
Even worse, too much exposure to these conditions can put so much strain on your heart and blood vessels that you risk heart failure or stroke. The risk is greatest for people who have heart or circulatory problems. Their bodies are least able to take the strain and may not perspire and cool properly.
If you're working outside, you can also be exposed to hazards from too much sun exposure. One hazard is skin cancer--the result of too much sun.
Another problem is sunburn or sunstroke from getting too much sun when you're not used to it.
If you know the symptoms of heat stress, you can keep those symptoms from getting out of hand. The symptoms that indicate heat stress symptoms can also be symptoms of other health problems. But if it's hot and you're getting a workout, heat stress is probably your prime hazard.
You usually start by feeling hot, uncomfortable, and just not ready to do much. That's not serious, but it's probably a sign you should get out of the heat. More about that in a moment. But first, here are the symptoms that could indicate a serious problem:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Excessive sweating
- Chest pain
- Breathing problems
- Great weakness
Even worse are these signs of heatstroke:
- High temperature
- Hot red, dry skin
- Rapid pulse
Assume that any of these symptoms mean a serious problem.
You should also know the signs of skin cancer. See a doctor if you notice a mole or skin spot with these characteristics:
- One half is different from the other
- There are different colors
- The border is irregular
- It seems to be growing
Now let's talk about what to do.
Protection Against Hazards
As with any hazards, the best way to deal with heat hazards is to try to prevent them.
- Dress for conditions. Lightweight, light-colored loose clothing is the best. Wear a hat with a wide brim if you're out in the sun. Put sunscreen on exposed body parts.
- Eat a regular well-balanced diet, but try to stay away from hot or heavy food. Also watch your salt consumption. Some people take salt tablets to replace the salt lost in perspiration when it's hot. But too much salt can be bad for you, so don't take salt tablets without a doctor's recommendation.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Don't wait until you're thirsty. Your body is sweating out a lot of fluid, and you have to keep replacing it. The best thing to drink is water. Avoid anything with caffeine or alcohol.