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Working in the Heat

With temperatures spiking into the hundreds in much of the US already this summer, employers should be aware of the dangers of heat exhaustion and learn to take precautions.

Some small offices don’t provide air conditioning, which makes it hard to focus and do good work. Many employees work outside, directly in the heat where conditions can be dangerous. Many warehouse workers must stand for long hours, work very fast, and sometimes lift heavy loads in furnace-like conditions. We saw an example of this in the news last year at the Amazon.com warehouse.

Acclimating to the Heat

According to employment.alberta.ca “When working in hot conditions, people need at least 4 to 7 working days to become fully acclimatized, but the process may take up to three weeks. A scheduled exposure is recommended. For example, doing physical work for less than a full working day on the first hot day and slowly increasing the time spent working over the next week. Each person must be monitored to ensure that he or she is adapting to working in the heat.”

Signs of Heat Overexposure

Warning Signs:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness / faintness
  • Irritability / anger / mood change
  • Fatigue
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle cramps (due to heavy sweating and electrolyte loss)
  • Exhaustion

Recommendations

According to the CDC someone suffering from heat exhaustion should rest in a shaded, cool place, drink plenty of water, and take a cold shower or bath. However, prevention is the best remedy. Employers should take measures to ensure workers are safe during the summer months. Employers should:

  • Provide employees with ample cold water
  • Offer light-colored, loose fitting uniforms if working outdoors
  • Adjust schedules to keep employees out of the sun during the hottest times of day
  • Offer more breaks
  • Reduce physical demands of workers where possible and offer more workers to assist physically demanding jobs
  • Educate workers on the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion
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