Let’s take a look at how heat can impact your body. When working in hot conditions, your body will attempt to prevent overheating by changing your blood flow and through the physiological processes of sweating and breathing. Its initial reaction will be to circulate blood to the skin. This increases your skin temperature and allows your body to release some of the heat.
During strenuous work, your muscles require more blood, which reduces the amount of blood available to flow to the skin. Sweating also helps regulate your body’s core temperature when the sweat is able to evaporate; however, the water and salt lost due to sweating must be replaced by drinking 8 ounces, or one cup, of cool water or a drink containing electrolytes. Being hydrated when you start work makes it easier to stay hydrated throughout the work day. If you are dehydrated when you start work, you may not be able to drink enough to catch up with your body’s need for water. Do not drink more than 48 ounces per hour. This could cause a medical emergency because the concentration of salt in the blood becomes too low.
Your breathing may become rapid and shallow. Your pulse may significantly increase due to the tremendous burden heat stress places on your heart to help cool your body. This can lead to a variety of heat-related illnesses including heat rash, heat syncope, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, rhabdomyolysis, and even heat stroke. All of these illnesses can be prevented if both the employer and the employee recognize hazardous conditions and symptoms and implement engineering controls and administrative practices that can reduce the risk.
It is important for workers to watch out for each other. If you notice signs of heat-related illness in a co-worker, do not ignore the symptoms. Contact your supervisor or medical first responder immediately. Follow your company’s protocol for emergency care. Never leave a worker with a heat-related illness alone.
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Get more information about the Heat Related Illness Awareness course here.