What are some of the misconceptions about heat stress and what should we do to address them?
Working outside during the summer months increases the risk of heat-related illnesses, so it's important to go over how to identify the symptoms of heat-related conditions and how to combat them – or, even better, how to prevent them from happening at all.
A lot of people believe that heat stroke only occurs if you stop sweating and urinating, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Most victims of exertional heat stroke still sweat and urinate. In fact, even if somebody is sweating profusely, they may still be experiencing other symptoms of heat stroke (throbbing headache, dizziness or lightheadedness, muscle weakness or cramping, nausea or vomiting, and rapid heartbeat).
There is also the general belief that heatstroke only occurs at unusually high temperatures. But extreme heat is just one factor in heat stress. Performing strenuous activities outdoors can lead to heat-related illnesses even if the temperature hasn't climbed extremely high. Workers who are sick or have a medical condition like heart disease can also become dehydrated at lower temperatures.
Remember, you are often the last person to know you're experiencing heatstroke. Many people don't realize they're affected until their symptoms have become so severe that they're stumbling, confused, and incoherent. It's important, then, that every supervisor makes sure that workers are taking proper precautions when working outdoors in high temperatures.
Make sure, of course, that employees stay hydrated. Provide them with plenty of water and make it easily accessible. Advise workers to avoid drinks that are high in sugar, since they can increase thirst and elevate blood sugar levels to make you feel warmer.
Keep an eye for signs of heatstroke in others. You are more likely to recognize the warning signs before they are. Be aware of factors that increase risks to individual workers, such as being on certain medications.
If at all possible, avoid working outside during the hottest times of the day.