With the summer months on the horizon, warm weather tends to draw attention towards the risks of heat-related illness.
The reality is that, while special attention should be paid to heat stress in the summer months, heat stress risks can manifest at any point during the year. Resulting from extreme exposure to heat and hot environments, heat stress causes occupational illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rash. The summer months naturally are a high-risk time of year, given soaring temperatures and elevated humidity; however, strenuous physical activity near radiant heat sources, in stuffy and heated interior environments, or around heated objects also poses elevated risks for heat stress.
Heat stress ailments range from heat stroke, which is the most serious of heat-related illnesses, to heat rash, a common yet painful rash needing particular attention. A host of factors can contribute to increased risk of heat stress, such as high temperature and humidity, direct sun exposure, little to no breeze, low tolerance to hot workplace conditions, low liquid intake, heavy physical labor, or waterproof or bulky work wear.
Given the propensity for heat stress illnesses and the serious health conditions associated with heat stress, both employers and employees should be aware of both the signs of and precautions against heat stress. There are a number of ways to guard against heat stress, and those can be divided into preventative measures, protective measures, and proper attire measures.
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