Heat Exhaustion

Working in the heat and doing heavy physical work can affect the body’s cooling system. If your body is unable to cool itself, you can experience heat stress. If heat stress is not treated, it can develop into heat stroke, which can result in death.

Heat Exposure applies to outdoor work environments from May 1 through September 30, when employees are exposed to outdoor heat at or above an applicable temperature listed in Table 1.  WAC 296-62-09510. Remember, hear exposure can happen anytime of the year, as well as indoors.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Shallow breathing
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Cool, pale, clammy skin
  • Sweating
  • Weakness, fatigue, dizziness
  • Headache and nausea
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps

Treatment

  • Move the worker to a cooler environment. If possible, lay the worker down, and remove or loosen tight-fitting clothing.
  • Cool the worker by sponging with cool water and fanning. Take care not to cool the worker too much. If the worker begins to shiver, stop cooling.
  • In most cases, the patient’s symptoms will improve dramatically within 30 minutes.
  • Call 911 immediately if there are signs of Heat Stroke (confusion, agitation, absence of sweating or loss of consciousness).

Prevention

  • Acclimatize your body (gradually expose yourself to warmer work environments).
  • Drink plenty of water (one glass every 20 minutes).
  • Wear clean, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabric.
  • Take rest breaks in a cool or well-ventilated area.
  • Take more breaks during the hottest part of the day or when doing hard physical work. Allow your body to cool down before beginning again.
  • Take care not to burn.  This can occur in as little as 10 minutes
  • If desired, apply high factor sun-screen generously and frequently to any parts of the body exposed to the sun; SPF15 or above
  • Remember to hydrate before you need it.  If you are planning on activities in the heat hydrate early.

Presenter tips

  • Pre-read the Toolbox Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Toolbox Talk relevant to your job site.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion.

Questions for Discussion

  • How does non-breathing clothing affect the body’s ability to cool?
  • Who is at most risk for Heat Exhaustion?