“It has been a hot summer so far and there are no signs that it will let-up anytime soon,” says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck, the Executive Vice President of the NEA – the Association of Union Constructors. “Employers and their workers must take precautions against heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”
The first stage of danger is heat exhaustion, characterized by heavy sweating; slightly elevated body temperature; pale, clammy skin; headache, nausea or vomiting; and unusual weakness, dizziness or fainting.
The remedy is to get out of the sun and cool down. A victim should lie down and loosen clothing for ventilation; drink sips of cool water; sponge the forehead and body with cool water; check body temperature and seek medical help if it is over 102 degrees; and, if conditions persist beyond an hour, seek medical help regardless of body temperature.
If untreated, heat exhaustion can turn rapidly into heat stroke.
Heat stroke is characterized by confusion, unconsciousness or possibly seizure; body temperature above 102 degrees; rapid, shallow breathing and rapid pulse; and hot, dry, flushed skin, but usually no sweating.
If heat stroke is suspected, medical help should be immediately summoned. It is not sufficient to just get out of the sun and attempt to lower the body temperature through cool bathes and drinking water. Rather, medical attention is required. If untreated, heat stroke can be fatal.
Protections against Heat Stress
- If possible, adjust work patterns to minimize strenuous outdoor activity during the hottest hours.
- Drink eight ounces of water every hour, even more if it is very hot and you are very active. Remember, your body may need water before your thirst signals.
- Check with your doctor to learn if any of your medications reduce your tolerance to heat or sunlight.
- Avoid sudden changes in temperature; for instance, air out a hot car before entering.
More information about the dangers of heat stress is available from the LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division (202-628-5465). The Fund publishes a 38-page manual for trainers called Heat Stress Education for Laborers. It also publishes a two-sided card, Heat Equation, that explains how temperature, humidity and physical work combine to cause heat illness. These publications are available through our online Publications Catalogue.