For those who think heat is not a risk to construction workers, the story of a 38 year old building worker who fell ill from heat stroke and died is a stark reminder of the true consequences of working in extreme heat without the proper precautions.
The incident occurred on the outskirts of Roma in Queensland when the man was working on a construction site in Mooga. The man then suffered from a heart attack as he was being rushed to hospital.
Knowing the risks involved with extreme temperatures and taking the appropriate precautions is vital to keeping safe during summer.
One of the most commonly occurring consequences on worker health is heat stroke and similarly to the man in Roma, if you do not receive the right treatment quickly enough you could also die.
Heat stroke is caused by the body heating up too quickly. The body’s temperature rises at an alarming rate and the body is not able to keep up. Because the body cannot cool itself, the ability to sweat also fails. Sweating generally helps in keeping us cool. Once this happens the person suffers from a heat stroke and if they do not die they may still suffer irreversible damage to their body.
When working in the heat one of the most important things to remember is the need to keep well hydrated. Workers should increase their water intake in summer and take frequent rest breaks in the shade. Employers must not only provide workers with cool, clean drinking water but they should encourage them to drink water often to prevent these sort of incidents.
As a worker who spends the majority of the day outdoors there are certain signs that you can look out for that indicate a problem may be developing:
- Either dry skin from inability to sweat or profuse sweating,
- A throbbing headache,
- A high body temperature,
- Confusion/dizziness and
- Slurred speech.
If you notice a co-worker with these symptoms move them immediately to a cool, shaded area. Call emergency services to tend to them. If possible soak their clothes in cool water and attempt to bring down their body temperature. Shower them or spray them with cool water or fan them while you wait for medical attention to arrive.