The MEMIC Group is offering simple steps policyholders and business owners should implement to avoid preventable, heat-related injuries.
“Heat is a serious risk for workers at any business. Managers and supervisors need to have a heat illness prevention program in place and, at a minimum, should be prepared to activate it when temperatures and heat index values are forecast to approach dangerous highs.”Rod Stanley, regional director of Loss Control services for The MEMIC Group
MEMIC is issuing guidance to its policyholders to follow OSHA guidelines on heat illness prevention, which should include:
- providing workers with water, rest, and shade;
- allowing new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads in order to acclimatize;
- planning for medical emergencies;
- training their employees on heat-related illness prevention.
Tips to insured businesses include:
- Plan your day. If you can, avoid strenuous activity during the hottest parts or the day. If possible, secure a shady spot near your activity zone to take breaks in and limit time in the direct sun.
- Wear the right gear. Light colored, breathable fabrics and hats that shade your face and neck help keep you comfortable under the sun’s rays. To prevent eye damage, make sure your pair of sunglasses filters at least 90 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Apply sunscreen early and often. The benefits of regular sunscreen use are well-documented. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (protecting against UV-A and UV-B rays) with an SPF of at least 15. Apply liberally 30 minutes before going outside, and every two hours thereafter.
- Stay hydrated. The Center for Disease Control recommends approximately one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks are not recommended, as they dehydrate your body.
- Assess regularly. If you can, take the time to rest in the shade for a few minutes every hour and monitor yourself for signs of overexposure and dehydration. If you’re feeling dizzy, nauseated, or extremely fatigued, head indoors or into the shade. Muscle pain or spasms may indicate dehydration or low salt levels. Don’t ignore these warning signals. Overextending yourself can be a serious health risk.
Here are some of the more serious heat disorders:
- Heat rash is the most common problem in hot environments and produces blister-like raised bumps on the skin that may itch or be painful to the touch. Treatment includes limiting time in the heat, keeping the skin dry, and showering promptly after being in the heat.
- Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that occur in the leg, arm, or abdomen. The cramps occur from extended physical activity in a hot environment and are one of the first signs of dehydration. Rest, drink water and electrolyte liquids such as Gatorade, eat salty crackers to increase salt intake, and try chewing on ice chips to cool down.
- Heat exhaustion, a combination of excessive heat and dehydration, can lead to heat stroke if left untreated. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness and/or fainting, weakness, heavy sweating, thirst, moist-clammy skin, and elevated body temperature. People in this condition should be moved to a cool shaded area. Cool them with water or cold compresses to the head, neck, and face. Have them drink water and electrolyte liquids. If they cannot drink or become lethargic, call 911. Make sure someone stays with them until help arrives.
- Heat stroke is the most serious, and potentially fatal, heat-related illness. Symptoms include hot dry skin (sweating may or may not be present), red-bluish skin, rapid pulse, confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures/convulsions, very high body temperature. Call 911 immediately. Soak clothing and skin in cool water and use a fan to create air movement. Make sure someone stays with the worker until help arrives.
“Heat-related illness and injuries are serious threats to workers. But they’re also fully preventable. Our guidance to businesses is: have a plan, monitor staff frequently, and provide quick treatment if heat stress-related symptoms develop.” — Rod Stanley
For more information on heat-stress related illnesses read MEMIC’s blog Don’t Be a Hot Head: Tips to Avoid Heat Stress.