U.S. HealthWorks often conducts site visits and training sessions to help employers identify potential dangers in the workplace, teach staff about safety on the job, and provide protocol to follow in the event of an emergency.
While we hope that no one ever has to use first aid protocols, it’s impossible to know when a dangerous situation or injury might arise.
Recently Dr. Donald Bucklin, our regional medical director based in Scottsdale, Arizona, paid a visit to a local energy company in Arizona to conduct a seminar on the dangers of heat exposure. This company understands that working outdoors in the Arizona heat is not to be taken lightly, and wanted to be sure its employees were properly prepared.
Thank goodness for the training. Just a half hour after Dr. Bucklin’s visit, the company encountered a real-life emergency when an employee discovered a man, unaffiliated with the company, inside a 40-foot steel storage container used to store tools.
It was unknown why he had concealed himself there, but one thing was clear: the man was showing signs of heat stress after spending several hours in the container. The temperature the previous day had reached 110 degrees.
The employee who found him sprang into action. After calling 911 and notifying his site supervisor, he and his team followed U.S. HealthWorks’ first aid protocols for cooling and hydration that Dr. Bucklin had just taught them. Thankfully, the victim was responsive, and once inside the ambulance, he was stabilized and taken to a nearby hospital.
This type of situation, while totally unexpected, can happen at any time in any number of workplaces. The knowledge and preparation of the employees on-site, who knew to reduce core body temperature and hydrate the man, ultimately saved his life.
The most likely form of heat illness in this type of situation is heat stroke, which can be recognized through symptoms including body temperature over 103 degrees F, hot and dry skin, the absence of sweating, throbbing headaches, nausea, confusion, dizziness or unconsciousness.
If someone encounters a person who shows signs of heat stroke, they should do the following:
- Move the victim move to coolest area available.
- Call 911.
- Cool the victim as quickly as possible through cold water immersion, or ice water soaked towels. If this is unavailable, use cold water from hose, or wet the victim and fan them.
- Continue cooling efforts until the person’s temperature drops to 101 or 102 degrees.
Workers in general should always take caution to protect themselves in heat, including:
- Try to keep cool when possible, and use common sense about working strenuously in heat
- Drink PLENTY of water (16-32 ounces of fluids per hour is recommended in hot temperatures)
- Wear lightweight clothing and apply sunscreen
- Stay indoors when possible, or if outdoors, seek breaks in the shade
Preparation and prevention are essential to limiting heat illness in the workplace. Follow these tips, and remember to be careful in summer heat, especially on the job.