Michigan Offers Health and Safety Tips for Work and Play this Summer

The first week of summer has begun with above average temperatures for much of the nation, so Michigan Department of Consumer & Industry Services (CIS) Director Kathy Wilbur offers a few energy, health and safety tips to help people keep their cool at work or play for the hot months ahead.

"Summer time is fun time but with all the summer fun also comes some seasonal safety and health challenges," says Wilbur. "The first days of summer have been scorchers so we wanted to remind folks of some simple things they can do to weather the heat more safely and economically. And, we know many residents are looking for ways to reduce their energy costs at home as well as on the highway while traveling."

Following are some summer tips compiled from CIS agencies including the Michigan Public Service Commission, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Bureau of Health Systems and the Bureau of Safety and Regulation (which administers the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act):

  • Keep the air circulating.
  • Stay out of the direct sun as much as possible.
  • Keep outdoor activities to a minimum, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Wear weather appropriate clothing - lightweight, loose-fitting clothes made from a fabric that easily absorbs body perspiration is recommended
  • Drink plenty of fluids - especially water - since excessive perspiration depletes large quantities of salt and fluid from the body.
  • Take tepid baths - this will help reduce the body's internal temperature and increase comfort.
  • Learn the signs for heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion can result from the overexposure to heat or the sun. Long exposure to extreme heat or too much activity under a hot sun causes excessive perspiration. When the amount of salt and fluid in the body fall to below normal, heat exhaustion may occur. Early symptoms include headache and a feeling of weakness and dizziness usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting. There may also be cramps in the muscles of the arms, legs, or abdomen. Treatment should include removing the person to a cool environment and increased consumption of fluids.

Heat stroke, also known as sunstroke, is a profound disturbance in the body's heat-regulating mechanism caused by prolonged exposure to excessive heat, particularly when there is little or no circulation of air.

Since heat stroke is much more dangerous than heat exhaustion and is treated differently, it is important to distinguish between the two. While the early symptoms are similar, the later symptoms differ sharply - in heat exhaustion, there is excessive perspiration and a normal or below normal temperature. By contrast, in heat stroke there is an extremely high fever and absence of perspiration. The primary objective in heat stroke is to reduce the body's temperature as rapidly as possible via a cool water or sponge bath. A physician should also be contacted immediately.

While there are no specific regulations to how hot the work environment can be, there is a MIOSHA General Clause and the federal OSHA General Duty Clause that require employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. Employers can be cited if workers exposed to heat are demonstrably ill and it can be verified by a health care professional and the employer has done nothing to alleviate these conditions.

Employers can help reduce heat by shielding workers from radiant heat sources, providing cooling fans, using power tools to reduce manual labor and using personal cooling devices and personal protective equipment.

Work practices such as providing plenty of drinking water (as much as a quart per worker per hour) at the workplace can help reduce the risks of heat disorders. Glasses of ice chips, sports drinks to replace potassium, calcium and magnesium salts and more frequent rest periods in cool areas are all effective in reducing heat stress.

Workers should, if possible, wear loose-fitting, light-colored, porous clothing that allows free air circulation over the body.

Employees, management and first aid providers should be trained to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness, how to report these symptoms to the employer and methods for reducing the effects are a part of a comprehensive health and safety program.

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