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National Safety Week: Hot, Hot Heat

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During the National Safety Council’s NATIONAL SAFETY MONTH, we’ll be taking a look at each week’s NSC-designated focus through a construction site lens. This is Fatigue Week.

As part of NSC’s month-long celebration of all things safety, TSCTA News has taken a look at the weekly focus as suggested by the organization, all while still presenting it from a construction perspective. Until this week.

Given the relatively uniform causes and effects of this week’s NSC focus — sleep-related Fatigue, a subject about which you can find information here — in the working world, we have chosen to focus on a kind of another kind of fatigue with which those on construction sites may be more specifically familiar: Heat-related fatigue, along with its various symptoms and stages.

In general, heat-related fatigue and stress falls into one of three categories: Heat CrampsHeat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke. As may be expected, heat cramps are most often experienced as a symptom of the other two and can be treated through standard methods of cooling, such as getting to a cool place and hydrating until temperature and bodily functions have reached a normal level.

If you or a co-worker are experiencing heat cramps as well as other symptoms — such as nausea/vomiting, excessive sweating and a weak, fast pulse – it is very likely heat exhaustion has set in and must take further steps to cool the affected person down. These may include (in addition to the remedies mentioned above,) taking a cold shower and using cold compresses until let the body has fully recovered to a normal temperature and hydration level.

Though, while that may sound unpleasant, as long as sweat is still being produce, chances are the body should be able to recover to full strength just by taking the proper steps to achieving normal body temperature and replenish electrolytes that lost from excessive sweating.

However, if at any point during the process you or the afflicted person stops sweating (accompanied by what appears to be sunburned skin) but haven’t cooled down and has a stronger pulse observed, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. SERIOUSLY. You are suffering from HEAT STROKE, WHICH IS A VERY URGENT MEDICAL EMERGENCY. 

Hopefully we’ve made that clear.

And, while waiting for help to arrive, here’s what should be done for you or anyone else who finds themselves in that situation: Take whatever steps necessary to cool down the person. Cold compresses, ice packs, water, whatever it takes. Doing so can literally be the difference between living or dying.