Don't Lose Your Cool

With the arrival of summer comes the hotter workplace.  Depending on where you live, it can be quite a swing in temperature. 

The daily high here in Maine is roughly three times what we were seeing two months ago.  Factor that into work areas that are already warm or hot because of boilers, production machinery, the sun and kitchen appliances, and there are reasons for concern.

Employers and employees have been battling the inevitable rise in workplace temperatures for centuries.  Buildings and production areas have benefited from improved design and the invention of air conditioning and ventilation, however, people still can become ill and injured due to heat stress. 

You can have an air-conditioned control room near a paper machine to get some relief, but nobody's come up with a method to cool the workers running that machine.  And we're talking about temperatures that at times are 110° plus with 95% humidity.

Prevention is the best defense.  Here’s some advice from the Center for Disease Control on how to beat the heat:

Heat Exhaustion

Your body has lost a lot of fluid through sweating, making you extremely weak.

Warning Signs

Heavy sweating, paleness, dizziness, headache, vomiting and fainting.

Prevention Steps

  • Drink plenty of water even if you're not thirsty.  Avoid  high-sugar drinks—they’ll dehydrate you.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take regular breaks in a cool place out of the sun.
  • If possible, rotate to a cooler work location.

Heat Stroke
Your temperature regulatory system fails and sweating is not enough to cool your body.

Warning Signs
Hot dry skin that is red, very high body temperature (above 103°), rapid and high pulse, dizziness, vomiting and unconsciousness.

First Aid

  • Move victim to a cool area.
  • Rapidly cool the person by spraying, immersing or sponging with cool water.  Fanning or even wrapping them in wet clothes is acceptable too.  Anything to bring the core temperature down.
  • Monitor their body temperature until it drops to at least 102°.
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible.