Working in Hot Environments

February 3rd, 2012

Unfortunately, there are many types of stress that affect us in the workplace. Among the most damaging to those who work outside or work around heat often, such as construction workers, farmers, postal workers and those working in kitchens around stoves or in factories, is heat stress. Other types of heat stress can also include heat exhaustion and heat stroke, where the body is placed under great stress because of overheating and can be a life-threatening condition.

Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stress: The Warning Signs
Working in the heat for long periods of time can result in serious discomfort and other health conditions to develop. Heat exhaustion can occur when there is a lack of fluids in the body, while heat stress occurs when others are not used to working in some heat-related conditions Being aware of the early warning signs of heat stress or exhaustion can help you and others to dealing with it as soon as you feel unwell or notice someone else showing such signs. Some of the warning signs include:

  • Heat rashes – including hives and sunburn
  • Heat cramps – including muscle spasms that can be painful and heavy sweating
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness and exhaustion
  • Slurred speech
  • Having difficulty thinking clearly

Preventative Measures and What to Do
If you feel you may be experiencing one or more of these symptoms or observe someone else experiencing them, it is extremely important that work tasks are immediately stopped and begin to take steps in protecting your health or that of others. Supervisors should also be contacted as soon as possible, and it is equally important to implement first aid arrangements and other emergency procedures. Should you work in an isolated area, all knowledge of emergency procedures should an incident occur and contact numbers needed must be known before you begin work.

All incidents of heat stress must be reported and investigated, with procedures to be constantly improved upon and review preventative measures taken to avoid heat stress ad exhaustion in the workplace.

To prevent workers from suffering heat stress or exhaustion, some measures that can be taken include reducing the amount of work performed outdoors, drinking plenty of water and avoiding caffeine, resting regularly, and wearing light, loose-fitting clothing or other types of protective gear (which must not be discarded as determined by the employer).

Determining Humidity
How humidity is determined in other work environments can concern:

  • Air Temperature: How hot or cold air surrounding the workplace is
  • Humidity: Judging the moisture content in the air
  • Air Movement: Which can include wind speed, and air circulation
  • Radiant Heat:  This is heat radiated from the sun or emitted by different plan, buildings, fixtures or processes.

Many of us don’t think twice about working outside or working in environments that can become overheated and grow used to these surroundings. However, it is extremely critical that measures are still taken to prevent incidents of heat exhaustion or stress should they occur as the environment we work in can have adverse effects on our health. Taking preventative measures early can help immensely in creating a safe and healthy workplace for all.