Many Entergy Arkansas teammates spend hours outside each day and working in extreme heat can pose special health and safety hazards.
“You may see our crews taking breaks in the shade and rehydrating as part of the required safety protocols,” said Michael Considine, Entergy Arkansas acting vice president of distribution operations. “That doesn’t mean work has stopped. It means our employees are striving to maintain the highest level of efficiency.”
For people working outdoors in hot weather, both air temperature and humidity affect how hot they feel, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Heat Illness Prevention campaign. The “heat index” is a single value that takes both temperature and humidity into account. The higher the heat index, the hotter the weather feels since sweat does not readily evaporate and cool the skin.
By following safety guidelines to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses and taking steps to prevent them, Entergy Arkansas aims to keep employees safe, comfortable, and productive.
These same precautions can be used to keep other businesses’ employees safe, as well as individuals who are outside mowing yards, gardening, performing home maintenance or other outdoor chores.
Types of heat-related illnesses and warning signs
Heat exposure can affect worker health in several ways. Those include:
Heat stroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature. Symptoms include confusion, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and hot, dry skin. Heat stroke can be fatal unless treated immediately. If you suspect someone is the victim of heat stroke, call for medical assistance, move them to a shady or cool area and provide drinking water as soon as possible.
Heat exhaustion happens when fluids or sodium chloride lost through sweating aren’t adequately replenished. The victim continues to sweat while experiencing extreme weakness, fatigue, nausea, or headache. If an individual shows signs of heat exhaustion, have them rest in a cool place and drink fluids. If vomiting or loss of consciousness occurs, seek medical assistance immediately.
Heat cramps or muscle spasms can occur when sodium chloride is lost through sweating and isn’t replaced. Tired muscles are susceptible to cramps, which can be relieved by increasing fluid intake. If the cramps or spasms are severe, medical attention may be required.
Heat rash occurs in hot, humid environments when sweat doesn’t evaporate effectively. In severe cases, heat rash can become so uncomfortable that it inhibits sleep and impedes worker performance. To prevent heat rash, rest in a cool place.
The extent of stress each individual feels from heat exposure will depend on age, fitness, and other factors.
Preventing heat-related illnesses
People need time to adapt to a hot work environment. Begin heat exposure for short periods and gradually increase. Give new employees or workers returning from an absence time to adjust to the heat. Follow these tips to reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses:
Provide plenty of drinking water in convenient, visible locations.
Use power tools to reduce manual labor.
Alternate work and rest periods in a cool area.
Schedule intense work during the coolest part of the day whenever possible.
Permit workers to stop and rest if they feel uncomfortable.
Consider an individual’s physical condition when determining their ability to work in hot weather conditions. People taking certain medications or with certain health conditions may be at greater risk.
For more information, see the Occupational Heat Exposure guide from the U.S. Department of Labor at https://www.osha.gov/heat/heat-index.