As Summer Turns On The Heat, Workers Must Be Vigilant About The Dangers Of Heat Stress

In the Mid-Atlantic Region of the US, Summer is often peak time for construction work. But for those working outdoors in this area of the country, summer often translates to performing strenuous physical tasks in an environment which not only is 90 degrees or higher, but where the humidity can be as high as 90 percent on a regular basis.

This combination of heat and humidity puts workers at a greater risk for heat-related illnesses which can lead to serious health repercussions. The two most significant risks are that of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Here is how to recognize symptoms of both:

Symptoms of Heat Stroke include:

  • Confusion, agitation, slurred speech and delirium
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headache
  • Red skin
  • Rapid heart rate

If left unchecked, heat stroke can lead to organ damage, including the kidneys, heart, brain and, in some cases, can even be fatal. Take action to get out of the sun, get hydrated and get immediate medical attention to anyone exhibiting symptoms of heat stroke.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion include:

  • Intense sweating
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness, fatigue, fainting
  • Rapid, weak pulse

While not as serious as heat stroke, heat exhaustion can quickly morph into heat stroke, so it’s important to be equally proactive in getting out of the sun and get hydrated and, if necessary getting appropriate medical attention.

For more information and resources on preventing heat stress, see OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention Campaign.