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Summer Safety Tips - The Dangers of, and How to Prevent, Heat Injuries

By Jim Nelson from J and J Lawn Service

The summer is upon us and I wanted to take a moment to remind everyone of the dangers of the heat.

This is a subject very dear to me as I have witnessed and evacuated numerous heat casualties over the years in my lifetime. Once an individual becomes a casualty of the heat. the effects can be very long lasting and even fatal in some cases.

In most of the more severe cases (Heat Stroke) that I have dealt with, the individual was never the same again mentally or physically.

In almost all cases, heat injuries can be prevented by following some simple steps to prevention, and knowing the symptoms associated with them.

If you’re working with someone it is imperative that you look after each other. These injuries can occur very quickly and often we are our own worst enemy.

This is primarily because you can often recognize the symptoms in yourself, but choose to continue working.

In addition to the tips below, make sure you get plenty of rest, take breaks often (in cool areas when possible), and eat/drink regularly.

Don’t become a statistic!

INDIVIDUAL RISK FACTORS

  • Illness

  • Immunization

  • Previous heat injury

  • Skin trauma

  • Dehydration

  • Fair of Light Skin

  • Fatigue

  • Obesity

  • Poor physical condition

  • Level of acclimatization

  • Consumption of alcohol and drugs

  • Improper eating habits

DEHYDRATION

Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions.

If you don't replace the lost fluids, you will become dehydrated! Some of the symptoms can include but not limited to are:

  • Extreme thirst

  • Less frequent urination

  • Dark-colored urine

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

Don’t overlook the electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium) the body needs as well, good sources are fruits and vegetables.

Drink small amounts of fluids on a regularly scheduled basis, whether or not you feel thirsty.

The Skin Turgor Test is a simple test that you can perform to do a quick check for dehydration.

Pinch the skin over the back of the hand, on the abdomen, or over the front of the chest under the collarbone. This will show skin turgor.

Mild dehydration will cause the skin to be slightly slow in its return to normal position. The slower the skin returns to its normal position the more dehydrated you are.

TYPES OF HEAT INJURIES

Heat Cramps are painful contractions of limb, abdominal or back muscles caused by loss of salt through profuse sweating.

Symptoms:

  • Contractions of large muscle groups (Trunk, Legs, Abdominal)

Treatment Measures include:

  • Move casualty to a cool or shaded area or improvise shade

  • Loosen clothing

  • Slowly drink at least 1 quart of cool water

  • Seek medical aid if cramps continue

Prevention:

  • Adequate intake of water (small amounts frequently)

  • Salting of foods - There is no need to add extra amounts of salt to your food

Heat Exhaustion is an inability to continue work in the heat due to a collapse of the blood vessels near the skin’s surface.

Symptoms:

  • Profuse sweating

  • Headache

  • Tingling sensation in extremities

  • Pale, moist, cool skin

  • Loss of coordination

  • Confused or drowsy

  • Possible loss of consciousness

Treatment Measures include:

  • Remove person from sun - place in shade or cool place

  • Elevate legs above level of head

  • Remove all excess clothing, boots, and equipment

  • Give water by mouth if conscious

  • Pour water on casualty, massage limbs, and fan

  • Monitor casualty

Prevention:

  • Use of work/rest cycles

  • Proper water consumption

  • Proper diet - to maintain chemical balance

HEAT STROKE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY where the body is unable to regulate its own temperature. The body loses its ability to dissipate heat.

Symptoms:

  • Headache

  • Overall bad feeling

  • Excessive warmth

  • Sudden loss of consciousness

  • Convulsions or delirium

  • Sweating may or may not be present

  • Skin hot and dry

  • Pulse is full and rapid

Treatment Measures include:

  • Move person to a cool area or provide shade

  • Remove the outer garments and equipment

  • Pour water over casualty, rub limbs, and fan

  • Elevate casualty’s legs

  • Start IV if possible

  • SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION

Please pass this information along during your training and safety briefings.

Take care of yourself and those around you!

Jim Nelson
J and J Lawn Service
UAG Member, 2018
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What other tips would you share when it comes to keeping you and your team safe in the summer? Join our forum to share your tips or ask other pros for advice.