Heat Exhaustion and Sunstroke
When working during hot weather, we may suffer heat exhaustion or sunstroke. Heat exhaustion is caused by the loss of body salt, and sunstroke occurs when the body mechanism is not able to keep the system cool. Following are the symptoms of these ailments and the steps we should take to aid the victim.
Symptoms: The first signs of heat exhaustion are dizziness, weakness, headache, blurred vision, nausea and staggering. The face becomes pale, there is profuse sweating, the pulse is weak, and breathing is shallow. The person may become unconscious.
Treatment: When someone shows symptoms of heat exhaustion, immediately remove that person to a place where the air is circulating freely. Make the person lie down and keep him or her warm.
If the victim is conscious, add a teaspoon of salt to a pint of cool water and give this to the victim in small sips at frequent intervals. If the heat exhaustion symptoms persist, call the doctor.
How to Avoid: Keep in good physical condition and stop to rest when you begin to feel faint. Increase dietary salt and fluids when working in extremely hot weather.
SUNSTROKE (HEATSTROKE) Symptoms: The victim develops a severe headache, the face is red the skin is hot and dry, there is no sweating, and the pulse is strong and very rapid. The person has a high fever (105o—106oF.)and may become unconscious. This is followed by convulsions, coma, and sometimes death.
Treatment: Get the victim to where there’s professional medical treatment as soon as possible. In the meantime place the individual in the shade. Loosen the clothing and cool the victim with the best means available. If the individual’s temperature starts to drop, cover with a light blanket, so that the sudden change in body temperature won’t cause shivering or convulsions.
How to Avoid: Stay away from alcoholic beverages. Instead, drink water, lemonade, or citrus fruit juices. Wear clothing that is lightweight, well ventilated, and loose. Replace the body salts lost through perspiration by making sure your salt and fluid intake is adequate.
Know The Difference: Become familiar with the symptoms of sun- stroke and heat exhaustion. As we’ve discussed, the treatment for each of these ailments is different and knowing the difference could mean life or death.
Heat Stress Prevention
As spring turns into summer and brings up “hot weather,” we should all be aware of some tips to prevent heat stress. Remember physical activity at high temperatures can directly affect health and indirectly be the cause of accidents.
What Is Heat Stress?
It’s a signal that says the body is having difficulty maintaining it’s narrow temperature range. The heart pumps faster, blood is diverted from internal organs to the skin, breathing rate increases, sweating increases, all in an attempt to transfer more heat to the outside air and cool the skin by evaporation of sweat. If the body can’t keep up then the person suffers effects ranging from heat cramps to heat exhaustion, and finally to heat stroke.
Dry Clothes and Skin doesn’t mean You’re Not Sweating!
In dry climates you might not feel wet or sticky, but you are still sweating. On a very warm day you can lose as much as two liters of fluid.
Beat the heat. Help prevent the ill effects of heat stress by:
- Drinking water frequently and moderately (every 15-30 minutes—about a glassful). Due to the fact that most of us already consume excessive salt in our diets; salt tablets are NOT recommended for general use.
- Resting frequently.
- Eating lightly.
- Doing more strenuous jobs during the cooler morning hours.
- Utilizing the ventilation or fans in enclosed areas.
- Remembering that it takes about 1-2 weeks for the body to adjust to the heat; this adaptation to heat is quickly lost—so your body will need time to adjust after a vacation too.
- Avoiding alcohol consumption. Many cases of heat stroke have occurred the day after a “night on the town.”
- Wearing light colored, cotton clothes and keeping your shirt on—desert nomads don’t wear all those clothes for nothing.
Job Site Heating Devices
For some of us, the onset of winter means heating our job sites with temporary heaters. When used correctly, temporary heaters can make your working environment much more comfortable. When used incorrectly, they present a significant risk of fire or explosion.
Inspect your equipment!
Heaters are used seasonally and are often stored for long periods of time between uses. They may be damaged when they are hauled from one location to another. It is critical that each heater is inspected before operation for signs of damage and is watched closely during initial operation to be sure that it functions properly.
Before using any space heater or other temporary heating device, make certain it is approved for the environment in which you plan to use it. Ask these questions – Is the unit approved for direct contact with wooden floors? Does it consume oxygen? Does it radiate heat or force heated air across the room? The manufacturer’s specifications will explain how and where the heater may be safely used. Make certain there is adequate ventilation in the room in which the heater will be placed. When the natural supply of fresh air is inadequate, mechanical ventilation must be provided.
These Things Get Hot! Some Things to Keep in Mind:
- Be aware that the outside of the heater may not look hot, but if you touch it, you could be severely burned.
- Heaters not intended by their manufacturer for use on wood floors must not be set on wood or other combustible materials. This type of heater must be set on suitable heat-insulating material such as 1″ concrete or masonry block. The insulating material must extend beyond the heater 2 ft. or more in all directions.
- Temporary heaters must be placed at least 10 ft. from combustible tarpaulins or similar coverings. Tarps must be securely fastened to prevent wind from blowing where they could upset the heater or be set on fire.
- Most temporary heating devices are intended to be used in the horizontal position – do not attempt to use them otherwise, unless permitted by the manufacturer.
- Each temporary heating unit must have a fire extinguisher with a rating of at least 20-ABC positioned to be immediately available in the event of a fire.
Be sure to get authorization to use any temporary heating device. Always use them in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. Also consider the job site’s conditions and requirements before selecting temporary heaters. Make certain all workers are aware of their presence and instructed in their safe use.
Temporary heaters can be safely used only if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions!
L P Gas Salamander Heaters
L P gas salamander heaters can be very useful for providing temporary heating on job sites, particularly when the size of location of the site makes other heaters impractical. They are ideal for heating because the salamander is equipped with adjustable valves and regulators making it easier to control the heat source and quantity of gases.
While these heaters can be very helpful to us for heating the work area, it is important that common sense precautions be taken to prevent fires or injuries that could result if they are improperly used.
Most LP gas salamander accidents that occur are fires, usually caused when the units are placed too close to combustible materials (paper, wood, plastics, etc.) or near flammable solvents or paints. Burns are the frequent source of injury, and they often occur when salamanders are placed in the middle of walkways or too close to work areas.
As with any fuel/air heater, there is always a potential for oxygen deficiency and carbon monoxide poisoning in highly confined areas that do not have adequate cross ventilation. Some good helpful tips for salamanders and other portable heaters are:
1. Always maintain a minimum distance of at least 3 feet from any combustible materials and observe an overhead clearance of at least 6 feet to prevent fires.
2. Tarpaulins, canvas, and plastic coverings have been the major fuel source in many fires started with salamanders, so keep these combustibles at least 10 feet away from any open flame heat
3. Always be alert for hot surfaces on and around the heat Don’t touch metal parts that could become heated. Even though they don’t look hot, they can cause serious burns.
4. Salamanders are designed to be used in a horizontal position. Don’t attempt to use them in other positions unless permitted by the manufacturers’ instructions.
5. Always follow the instructions when lighting the heater or shutting it down. Don’t attempt shortcut
6. After lighting the salamander, check to be sure that it is functioning properly. If you feel that it’s not working properly, shut it off and tell your supervisor
7. It’s a good idea to periodically check a salamander after it is lighted just to be sure that it continues to burn properly. A quick inspection takes very little time and you may prevent an accident.
8. Be very careful when you place a salamander in a confined plac Some of these heaters use up oxygen quickly and generate carbon monoxide vapors. There should always be a source of fresh air when fuel-air heaters are used.
9. When fueling or changing L P tanks follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure the unit is cool to the touch. It’s a good idea to check for leaks in fuel lines, hoses or connection
10. Remember that L P gas is heavier than air. Leaks in cylinders tend to seek the lower level of a room and could move to other areas easily. Be sure that leaks are reported. L P gas cylinders not in use should be properly stored and secured outside, away from the building.
These safety tips are common sense, and are worth considering in view of the injuries and fires that have occurred with these heaters.
Good thoughtful action when using salamanders will give us warmth.
Careless or thoughtless use can turn them into deadly tools.
WHY TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER?
Actually, we have no control over rain, snow, sleet, wind, lightning or sunshine. But we can control what happens on our job as a result of the elements. Some of the biggest problems on construction jobs are caused by wind and lightning. Wind probably causes the most accidents; lightning can be deadly.
WATCH OUT FOR WIND
Don’t let the wind catch you off guard. I’m not just thinking of tornadoes or hurricanes, but of everyday winds and unexpected gusts. Wind just loves to pick up anything it can and sail it away. So when it’s windy, securely tie or weight down supplies and materials. It’s amazing what a little wind can do. Some gusts can pick up a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood from the top of a high rise building and carry it several blocks. Or blow you off a scaffold.
On one occasion, the wind blew empty 50 gallon drums off a 15-story building. One drum went through the roof of a tool shed. What would have happened if the drum had landed on you? You’d have had more than a giant sized headache.
It seems the higher you go, the stronger the wind. When working on tall buildings, stay away from roof edges, floor openings, and similar drop-offs where the wind could blow you over. Weight down or otherwise secure material or equipment that can be blown down.
Don’t loiter on the leeward side of un-braced walls, lumber stacks or anything else that can be blown over by a sudden gust of wind. In many instances, workers have been seriously injured when an un-braced wall or form was blown over on them while they were sitting in its shade during lunch or before starting work.
Every so often we read about workers being struck by lightning. They usually come out second best.
Recently a hook-up man was electrocuted when lightning struck the crane boom while he was holding on to the hook preparing some materials to be lifted.
We all like to keep things moving until we’re rained out. But when lightning is around, it’s safer to take shelter early. Very often an electrical storm occurs without rain. Or a lightning storm proceeds the rain. So if you’re working with a crane, on top of steel frame-work, or around other projecting equipment or a building the safest thing to do is to seek shelter when you see lightning.
You’ll be reasonably safe from lightning in-side the structure, particularly when it’s equipped with lightning rods. You’ll also be fairly safe in an automobile or truck. But never take shelter under an isolated tree or where you’re in contact with a tractor, crane, or other equipment. If you get caught out in the open, stay as low as you can. It’s much safer to be down in a ditch than on top of the ground.
RAIN CAN RUIN A JOB
Rain may be good for the farmer but it can play havoc with a construction job. It can turn it into a gigantic mudpie. Water seems to get in everywhere. Rain can ruin building materials and supplies and generally make things down right messy. Steel gets slippery, equipment gets stuck, and we get wet.
By covering equipment, materials, tools, supplies and ourselves, we don’t give rain a chance to do as much damage as it could. We can eliminate slipping hazards by sweeping water out of low areas used as passageways inside of buildings under construction.
DON’T SLIP ON ICE AND SNOW
When we work in colder climates, ice and snow make things slippery. Clean and sand any work surfaces, such as scaffolds and passageways, where there is ice and snow. Or turn the planks over. We need the best possible footing we can get. We don’t want to end up like one fellow. He didn’t sweep off the scaffold one afternoon after some light snow had fallen during the morning. He slipped and fell ten stories to his death.
CONTROLLING THE WEATHER
As I said, we can control the weather only as far as it affects the job. I haven’t been able to discuss all of the safety precautions that can be taken in case of inclement weather. But common sense usually dictates the right thing to do in any situation.