Watch out for heat stress at work and play

Photo credit: Dan Gutwein on Flickr

Photo credit: Dan Gutwein on Flickr

It’s a warning that bears repeating.

The summer sun – glorious as it is – can make us very sick if we are not prepared for working under it. Many people have felt it, especially those who work in construction, agriculture, forestry, and other outdoor operations.

I talked to a roofer who once had to lie down in the shade when he started feeling weak, tired, and dizzy. What he experienced are some of the early symptoms of heat stress:

* Shallow, quickened breathing
* A weak, fast pulse
* Cool, pale, clammy skin

The worker said his crew started work at 7 a.m. so they could take a two-hour lunch break at the hottest time of day. They also tried to get off the roof and into the shade regularly – but that one time, the heat got the better of him. Thankfully he noticed the symptoms quickly and took the right steps to recovery.

What to do in case of heat stress

Preventing Heat Stress At Work, from WorkSafeBC, explains exactly what to do – so please read it for a full explanation.

Basically, help the person move to a cooler spot, lie down, and loosen clothing. Then contact first aid; while you wait, sponge the person with water and offer a rehydrating sports drink. Chances are, if you’re quick enough, the symptoms will be gone in about 30 minutes.

But without early treatment, a person can develop heat stroke, which is very serious – even fatal. So please heed this warning and share it with others if they don’t seem to be watching out for themselves.

Links to more information on heat stress prevention

OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers offers this advice to “prevent heat related illness and fatalities.”

* Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
* Rest in the shade to cool down.
* Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
* Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency.
* Keep an eye on fellow workers.
* “Easy does it” on your first days of work in the heat. You need to get used to it.

Heat Stress and Your Health from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Heat-related illness from HealthLink BC

Preventing Heat Stress at Work from ACTSafe, for BC’s entertainment industry

Heat Stress in Agriculture from BC’s Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA)

Heat exhaustion incident report from BC’s Forest Safety Council – describes a close call


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