As a superintendent, you juggle many responsibilities, and the safety of your crew is right at the top of the list. Your team works around sources of hazardous energy daily, posing risks of electric shocks, entanglement, and faulty combustion engines. In fact, nearly 10% of serious accidents in the workplace are a result of the
Heat stress and heat-related illnesses are a major concern in golf maintenance, especially during the hot summer months. It’s important that you and your employees are aware of what heat stress is, how to avoid and detect it, as well as what to do in the case that someone suffers from a heat-related illness.
These illnesses are most common during the hottest months of the year when employees work outside. However, heat stress could just as well occur indoors.
Aside from high temperature and humidity, a few of the factors that could contribute to causing heat stress include low fluid consumption, little air circulation, direct sun exposure, physical exertion, or use of large/heavy equipment and clothing choices.
How to Protect Workers
The best way to treat heat stress is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Many prevention measures are under your direct control, like providing heat illness training, limiting the amount of time employees are required to work under hot conditions, assigning staff to less strenuous work or work in shady areas during the hottest days and providing your employees with liquids and electrolyte beverages.
You may also modify work schedules and rotations to decrease the amount of exertion required during hot days, and allow for frequent water breaks in well-ventilated, cool, or air-conditioned areas. Consider providing protective clothing and designating a person to monitor and protect employees who experience heat stress.
During periods of sharp temperature increments, decrease and then gradually increase workloads to allow acclimatization. Likewise, new employees should start with lower workloads in order to acclimatize.
It’s important that employees are properly trained to follow prevention methods, detect symptoms of heat stress, as well as know how to respond to it.
To protect workers from heat stress, make sure that they are educated on the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses. Everyone should be able to recognize heat illness symptoms in themselves and in others. They should drink plenty of fluids (5-7 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes) and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. Workers should also be encouraged to make smart food choices, and try to eat light and cool meals on hot days.
What to Do if Someone Experiences Heat Stress
Heat stress happens when the body is unable to maintain its regular temperature, and it could result in a few different heat-related illnesses which each have different warning signs and implications. The steps you should take to handle a victim with heat stress vary by the type of illness.
Heat Stroke is the most serious heat-related illness – it’s a medical emergency and it may result in death. The symptoms of this illness include confusion, seizures, loss of consciousness, and a loss of sweating. If you notice these symptoms, you should call 911, and attempt to reduce the person’s temperature by bringing them to a cool area, wet them with cool water or ice, and cover them in wet towels, blankets, or sheets.
Heat exhaustion is also very serious. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, confusion, heavy sweating, thirst, irritability and high body temperature. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should stop work, move to a cool area and drink liquids – ideally electrolyte beverages. You should try to lower the victim’s body temperature by applying a cold compress or water on their head, face, and neck.
Heat exhaustion is very dangerous, so someone should stay with the victim, and call 911 immediately if symptoms worsen. Even if the victim’s conditions improve, they should receive a medical evaluation.
Heat cramps are muscle cramps which are caused by the loss of fluid and body salts due to excessive sweating. The best way to treat this illness to rest and hydrate by drinking water or electrolyte beverages.
Heat rash is a common illness caused by sweating and humidity. It usually appears on the neck, upper chest, groin or elbow areas, and it looks like a cluster of blemishes or blisters. A victim of heat rash should move to a cooler, dryer area. They may also apply powder, but they should never apply any creams or substances that may make the skin warmer or moister.
Remember, the best way to treat these dangerous illnesses is to prevent them by making sure that everyone on your team follows heat illness prevention methods.
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