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Summer Prep: Can You Stand the Heat?

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During the summer months, technicians often find themselves working in sweltering attics, where temperatures can exceed 140°F and even reach 170°F. These extreme conditions can lead to dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even heat stroke, which is considered a medical emergency. According to Safety and Health Magazine, heat-related illnesses accounted for 783 worker deaths and nearly 70,000 serious injuries in the United States from 1992 to 2016. In 2018 alone, 3,950 workers experienced days away from work due to nonfatal injuries and illnesses from on-the-job heat exposure. Check out this ACCA Safety Series video on working in hot conditions.

To mitigate the risks associated with working in such extreme heat, technicians should inform their dispatchers or office representatives and establish a system of regular follow-up calls every 15 to 20 minutes. This way, dispatchers can consistently check on the technician’s alertness and functionality. Numerous incidents have been reported where technicians have fainted or lost consciousness while working in exceedingly hot environments. By implementing preventative measures, emergencies can be averted.


Water is essential for the proper functioning of our cells and organs. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more water than it takes in. Sweating to regulate body temperature and exhaling humidified air are natural processes through which we lose water. However, in extremely hot environments, water loss becomes more pronounced. The decreased fluid volume in the body’s blood vessels affects cardiac output, prompting the vessels to constrict in an effort to maintain proper blood pressure and ensure blood flow to vital organs. As a result, reduced blood supply begins to hinder bodily functions, leading to confusion and weakness as the brain and other organs receive less blood.

Dehydration symptoms infographic. Dry mouth and thirsty

Other Heat-Related Conditions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a comprehensive list of warning signs and symptoms for heat-related illnesses, along with recommended first aid measures. Below are some of these symptoms and steps:

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps can serve as an initial indication of heat-related illness and may progress to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Symptoms include painful muscle cramps and spasms, typically occurring in the legs and abdomen, accompanied by heavy sweating. One should apply firm pressure to the cramping muscles or gently massage them to relieve spasms. Offer small sips of water, unless the individual experiences nausea, in which case water should be discontinued. Seek immediate medical attention if cramps persist for more than an hour.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, weakness or fatigue, cool and pale or clammy skin, rapid and weak pulse, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, fainting. Move the person to a cooler environment, preferably a well-air-conditioned room. Loosen their clothing and apply cool, wet cloths, or have them sit in a cool bath. Provide small sips of water. If the person vomits more than once, seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke

Symptoms of heat stroke include throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F (39.4°C), hot, red, dry or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting, loss of consciousness. Call 911 or take the individual to a hospital immediately, as heat stroke is a severe medical emergency and time is critical. Move the person to a cooler environment, preferably one with air conditioning. Lower their body temperature by applying cool cloths or giving them a cool bath. Do not offer fluids. If the heat index temperatures are below the high 90s (°F), a fan can be used. Using a fan to blow air directly at someone may actually increase their body temperature if the heat index temperatures are above the 90s (°F).

Heat Exhaustion vs Heat Stroke

Diet Matters

The diet of a service professional significantly affects their overall performance and demeanor. Making wise food and snack choices while working in the field is crucial. Unhealthy eating habits can have a detrimental impact on a service professional’s ability to stay focused and perform well. One good starting point is to limit sugar intake throughout the workday. While excessive sugar consumption may provide a temporary energy boost, its effects quickly wear off, leaving service professionals feeling more tired, irritable, anxious, or even depressed. None of these outcomes align with the optimal behaviors necessary to remain sharp, alert, and courteous.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Dietary Guidelines recommend selecting foods and beverages with minimal added sugars. This refers specifically to sugars added during the processing of soft drinks, candy, cake, cookies, pies, and fruit drinks, rather than naturally occurring sugars found in fruits. Sugars like fructose, sucrose, honey, and corn syrup are metabolized similarly. Although the sugar in a banana and that in a can of soda are digested alike, the banana offers additional benefits. Unlike soda and candy, which provide little nutritional value, bananas contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also convenient to carry (similar in size to a candy bar) and offer significant health advantages.

For more detailed information on heat-related illnesses, please visit the CDC’s website.

Posted In: Field Safety, Safety, Training

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