Summertime in Ohio is peak season for road work, building projects, painting and other outdoor work. With daytime temperatures that average in the mid-eighties and often spike much higher, it is important to be aware of the risk of heat stroke and take steps to prevent it when working in hot environments, whether indoors or outdoors.
Heat stroke is a serious heat-related disorder that occurs when the body cannot regulate its own temperature to keep cool. As a result, the body temperature can rise out of control to dangerously high levels. If left untreated, heat stroke can be fatal or permanently disabling. If you or someone around you experiences symptoms of heat stroke, be sure to take action immediately as the condition can progress within a matter of minutes.
Symptoms of heat stroke include high body temperature, chills, dizziness, severe headache and slurred speech. Because heat stroke disrupts the body’s normal sweating mechanism, it can also result in either profuse sweating or hot, dry skin. Other common signs of heat stroke include hallucinations and confusion.
Workers who experience symptoms of heat stroke may sometimes ignore them due to on-the-job pressures, but it is never worth the risk — heat stroke is not something that you can simply “power through.”
Also, because the symptoms can include mental impairment, someone who is experiencing heat stroke is not always in a position to recognize the seriousness of their own condition. Thus, it is important for employers to be alert to the risk of heat stroke and train workers in how to prevent, recognize and respond to heat stroke symptoms in themselves and others.
Heat stroke symptoms should be treated as a medical emergency and should never be ignored. If you or someone you work with shows signs of heat stroke, call 911 and notify a supervisor immediately. Move the person to a cool, shaded area and take steps to cool the person down by fanning their body, removing or loosening clothing, or applying water.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Heat Stress,” April 11, 2014