Robert E. Wisniewski

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Recognizing signs of heat-related illnesses

There are plenty of dangers on a construction site, but in the summer the heat adds an extra hazard for construction workers who are often outside for long hours.

As a construction worker, you’re used to relying on the other members of your team to stay safe. Everyone needs to pay attention to hazards and communicate them to the rest of the team so that everyone can focus on the job and complete it safely.

Often it is easier to recognize symptoms of heat-related illnesses in someone else before that person realizes that they are getting overwhelmed by the heat. Here are some things to watch for in yourself and your coworkers as you work in the heat.

Heavy sweating

This is an easy symptom to dismiss since sweating is part of working out in the heat. Especially in Arizona. Sweating is how the body cools itself while you’re hard at work outside. It is critical to staying cool, so a person who is sweating more than usual is getting warmer than their body can control.

Here, you’re looking for someone who is sweating more than normal. Pay attention to the patterns of your coworkers and what might be unusual for them. If you’re able to recognize a difference in the amount someone is sweating, it can help catch a heat-related illness before it gets more serious.

Nausea

While you might not catch someone vomiting, you might notice something else out of the ordinary. Pay attention for someone not eating their lunch (or picking through it more than usual). This could be a sign that their body isn’t handling the heat very well.

Dizziness or weakness 

In a work environment, your coworkers might be hesitant to talk about feeling dizzy or weak. They might be feeling pressure to fight through it so that the job can get done or so that they don’t lose the time at work. Watch for people who are stumbling or dropping things more than usual. They might try to dismiss it as a one-time thing, but keep paying attention and encourage them to take a break.

What to do

Heat stroke is a very serious medical emergency. If you notice someone with severe symptoms, call 911 immediately and try to help them cool down while you wait for help.

Someone with symptoms that are less severe might have heat exhaustion. While this isn’t as serious as heat stroke, providing care is important so that it doesn’t turn into heat stroke. Help the person get to a cool or shady area and provide fluids. If possible, try to help them cool down with cool cloths applied to the head and neck.

By paying attention to the people around you, you can help the members of your team stay safe in the summer heat.

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