Whew.. It is HOT Out There!

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  • A record heat wave sent temperatures soaring in Arizona and other parts of the West and SouthwestReuters.com
  • Heat wave in West enters Day 6 … – NBC News
  • Record-breaking June 2021 heatwave impacts the U.S. WestClimate.gov

In the late 1990s, Kathy Gill, President and Owner at Tower Safety, was installing fiber optic cable in Phoenix with the temperatures that week reaching 123˚.  

“It was incredibly hot, and my coworker had stopped sweating,” Gill said. “He did not notice it; he was not aware of what his body was about to do next.”

This past week was another record-breaking heat wave for the south and southwest. Whether towerhands are in aerial lifts or climbing, according to Gill, their exposure to the heat effects on their bodies and the UV damage to their PPE and rigging gear can result in serious injury, heat stroke and death. 

To understand the seriousness of heat-related deaths, a CDC study mentions approximately 90 percent of the 10,527 deaths between the years of 2004-2018 occurred during the May to September months. Arizona, California, and Texas accounted for one third of heat related deaths and 70 percent of all heat related deaths occurred in males.

The CDC also recommends when working in the heat to help dehydration, drink 1 cup (8 ounces) of water every 15–20 minutes. Do not drink more than 48 oz (1½ quarts) per hour. Drinking too much water or other fluids (sports drinks, energy drinks, etc.) can cause a medical emergency because the concentration of salt in the blood becomes too low.

Heat related deaths and illness need to be taken seriously as OSHA recommends training and understanding the following symptoms and signs (see below) when working in the heat. The CDC says by the time the worker feels thirsty, they are already behind in fluid replacement. 

Heat-Related Illness/Symptoms and Signs

Heat stroke 

  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Heavy sweating or hot, dry skin
  • Very high body temperature
  • Rapid heart rate

Heat exhaustion

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Thirst
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Heavy sweating
  • Elevated body temperature or fast heart rate

Heat cramps

  • Muscle spasms or pain
  • Usually in legs, arms, or trunk

Heat syncope

  • Fainting
  • Dizziness

Heat rash

  • Clusters of red bumps on skin
  • Often appears on neck, upper chest, and skin folds

Rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown)

  • Muscle pain
  • Dark urine or reduced urine output
  • Weakness

Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which is a life-threatening condition. If you suspect heat exhaustion, take these steps immediately:

  • Move the person out of the heat and into a shady or air-conditioned place.
  • Lay the person down and elevate the legs and feet slightly.
  • Remove tight or heavy clothing.
  • Have the person drink cool water or other nonalcoholic beverage without caffeine.
  • Cool the person by spraying or sponging with cool water and fanning.
  • Monitor the person carefully.

If signs or symptoms worsen or if they do not improve within one hour call 911 or your local emergency number.

if the person’s condition deteriorates, especially if he or she experiences:

  • Fainting
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Inability to drink

In the case of a heat stroke, Gill said to immediately cool the victim by any available means. An effective method is to wrap the victim in wet towels or sheets and fan the victim. Keep clothes wet with cool water. If ice is available, place ice packs at areas with abundant blood supply (e.g., neck, armpits, and groin). Get medical help right away.

Employers and workers should become familiar with the heat symptoms. When any of these symptoms is present, promptly provide first aid. Do not try to diagnose which illness is occurring. Diagnosis is often difficult because symptoms of multiple heat-related illnesses can occur together. Time is of the essence. These conditions can worsen quickly and result in fatalities.

“When in doubt,” Gill said, “cool the worker and call 911.”

Helpful links:

Emergency Red Cross Weather App:

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