On June 24, 2013, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a press release reminding outdoor workers of the dangers of heat stress. With temperatures over 90oF expected for the next few days, the DPH urges those working in hot environments to protect themselves from heat stress.
Excess heat-related deaths in the U.S. average 700 each year. Heat waves are the most common cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. They cause more deaths each year than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined! In Connecticut, dozens of workers are seen in emergency departments each summer due to the health effects of heat stress.
Heat stress is heat-related illness caused by the body's inability to cool down properly. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But, sometimes sweating isn't enough. In such cases, a person's body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures can damage the brain or other vital organs.
Heat stress can range from mild conditions (like heat rash and heat cramps) to the most serious heat-related illness (heat stroke). Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not provided.
“Heat stress can severely impact a person’s health to the point where they need to seek emergency medical care, or even death,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen. “Heath-related illnesses and deaths are entirely preventable. Workers and employers should take steps to learn how to recognize the signs of heat stress and how to protect themselves.”
If you are working in hot environments, drink non-caffeinated liquids frequently to stay properly hydrated (i.e., 8 ounces of fluid every 20-30 minutes).
Employers can take the following actions to protect their employees working in hot environments:
- encouraging frequent breaks away from direct sunlight;
- scheduling physically-demanding work during the cooler parts of the day; and,
- providing cooling fans and moisture-wicking clothing to help their employees keep cool.