Preventing heat-related illness for landscaping safety
While we often think of the safety and risk of landscaping in relation to operating equipment or lifting heavy objects, temperature is a major safety concern. Working in the heat all day can be a dangerous situation for crews. As a landscaping contractor, you benefit from knowing the risks associated with heat-related illness and knowing how to avoid a life-threatening situation.
Find out about the signs and symptoms
Taking the time to research the signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness can help keep a problem from getting much more serious. Such diseases often occur quickly and can even become life-threatening if not acted quickly. This is why it is so important that you educate yourself – and your crews – on what to look out for.
The three situations that you need to be most familiar with are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps. Let’s look at everyone.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is a division of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has reported that heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It can be fatal. Heat stroke occurs when the body loses the ability to regulate temperature. In this case, body temperature can rise up to 106 degrees (or even higher) within minutes.
The symptoms associated with heat stroke are:
- Loss of consciousness
- Hot, dry skin or excessive sweating
- Confusion, altered state of mind, slurred speech
- Very high body temperature
This is an emergency situation that warrants an immediate call to 911. In the meantime, move the person to a shady place, remove the outer clothing, and moisten the skin with water. Let the air circulate around the person to speed up the cooling process.
Heat exhaustion is another serious heat-related condition that requires quick action. NIOSH reports that heat exhaustion is a response to excessive water loss through sweating.
The following are signs of heat exhaustion.
- Cool and moist skin with goose bumps in the heat
- Fast pulse
- Heavy sweating
- Increased body temperature
Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is why it is so important to take action. If you or a crew member is suffering from heat exhaustion, all activities should be stopped. Go to a cooler place and have cool water or a sports drink.
Heat cramps can also occur in hot weather. These are caused by excessive sweating. According to the NIOSH, sweating decreases the body’s natural salt and moisture levels, which can lead to cramps in some people. Remember, cramping on its own can be a problem or one of the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
If you or a crew member have convulsions from the heat, take a break and have some water or a sports drink.
Take steps to stay safe in the heat
These heat-related problems can be difficult for many landscaping companies as the work must continue even on hot days. However, there are ways to make your crews safer by starting work earlier in the day and encouraging them to take plenty of breaks. Make sure to fill cool boxes with water or sports drinks, and pitch tents when your crews don’t have room to take a break in the shade. It’s also important that your crew leaders actually enforce these breaks.
In addition, you should educate everyone about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses. Reminders should be given during morning meetings so that the information is fresh in everyone’s mind. The buddy system can be important with these issues as it can be difficult to spot signs and symptoms in oneself (especially since confusion can be a part of it).
Together you can help ensure that your crews are safe on hot days.