As weather warms up, keep your cool at work and play

KINGMAN - The brutal Arizona summer heat can kill if you aren't prepared.

"It's not just the agricultural and construction workers that get heat exhaustion and heat stroke," said Jessie Atencio, the assistant director of the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health's Consultation and Training department.

"Coaches and teachers who are watching kids at lunch or at practice can get it. Anyone who is exposed to the heat without proper shade and water can develop heat exhaustion or heat stroke."

ADOSH is offering employers free information and training as a reminder on how to best protect their workers from the summer heat.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, nearly 800 people are admitted to the hospital for heat-related illnesses and around 1,500 people died of heat exposure between 1992 and 2009.

People need to be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and how to prevent it, Atencio said.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: a high temperature, cramps, headache, dizziness, weakness, moist skin, mood changes, a rapid heart beat, and nausea and vomiting.

If the symptoms are not treated, heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke. The symptoms of heat stroke are dry, hot skin that no longer sweats, confusion, seizures, fainting and a high temperature.

Either condition can lead to death, Atencio said.

It is important to call for help right away if you suspect someone is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke, he said. While waiting for help, move the person into the shade, loosen heavy clothing, provide cool water for drinking and fan or mist the person with water.

The best way to prevent either illness it to be prepared, Atencio said.

"Wear light-colored, loose clothing, drink a cup of water every 15 minutes and take a break in the shade periodically," he said.

"By law, if you work outside, your employer has to provide you with drinking water and access to shade. Shade can be as simple as a nearby tree or as complex as a shade awning."

Avoid drinking soda, alcohol and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee. Drink water instead, Atencio said. Also avoid eating heavy meals.

Having an emergency plan in hand before something occurs can also help, he said.

Know your work location and be able to provide directions to emergency crews.

Atencio also recommends that workers who are new to Arizona or new to a job that requires them to work outside for long periods of time take it easy their first few days. He also recommends that employers limit the number of hours new employees are exposed to the summer sun.

"Let yourself get acclimatized to the heat," he said. "Temp workers are especially susceptible to heat illnesses because they may not be used to working outside."

Atencio's department also offers free You Tube videos online, check lists, seminars, pamphlets and training to all employers who call his office.

"We'll even do a site survey to help an employer develop a safe workplace," he said. "All of it is free of charge and is not tied to compliance with ADOSH rules. We don't report anything to the enforcement side of ADOSH."

The department also offers its Voluntary Protection Program, which gives employers bragging rights for being listed as one of the safest places to work in Arizona.

For more information, visit www.ica.state.az.us or call (855) 268-5251.

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