Earlier this summer, almost 35 million people were under heat advisories, and the southern United States was hit with triple-digit temperatures. We felt it at home in Louisiana. Many European countries also faced extraordinary temperatures. With that in mind, it is essential to protect our employees who can become ill due to working in hot, humid conditions. To stay on top of this emerging safety issue, electrical contractors must train their teams to notice the symptoms of heat exhaustion and prevent a more serious, potentially fatal heat stroke.
Warning signs to teach our teams and ourselves include profuse sweating, weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps and flushed skin. Attending to and acting on these symptoms help us prevent medical emergencies and allows us to keep our foresight on functional and productive projects.
The best way to prevent heat illness is for people to know their limitations. Provide plenty of accessible water so everyone remains hydrated and limit the intake of caffeinated and carbonated drinks. Also, make sure there is ample available space for shade when teams take their breaks. Wearing proper head coverings and lightweight, long-sleeved shirts can keep skin from being exposed to direct sunlight and prevent sunburn.
Remember, at the early signs of heat exhaustion, move to a cool, shaded area and drink plenty of water and electrolyte solutions. Heat stroke requires the attention of trained medical personnel. In those cases, make every effort to lower body temperature with ice, and call 911 immediately if you think that somebody has experienced signs of a heat stroke.
I think back on my early days as an apprentice, and I appreciate today’s easy access to the fantastic resources to evaluate my and others’ safety. Monitor OSHA emphasis programs and put yourself in a worker’s shoes during the hottest parts of the year when creating a comprehensive heat safety program.