By Valerie Smith
Heat-related illnesses: what to do
Signs of heat exhaustion:
• Extreme fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness or a headache.
Help for heat exhaustion:
• If someone is affected, move him or her to a cool, shaded area. Do not leave alone.
• Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
• Provide cool drinking water in a small cup every 15 minutes if the person affected is not sick to the stomach.
• Cool by fanning with a cold-water spray mist or a wet cloth.
• If he or she doesn’t improve in a few minutes, call 911.
Signs of heat stroke:
• Hot, red skin that looks like a sunburn; mood changes; irritability and confusion, such as failure to respond to verbal commands; and collapsing.
Help for heat stroke:
• Call 911 or seek emergency help immediately for someone suffering from heat stroke.
Source: Oregon OSHA
With temperatures in Bend topping 90 degrees, those who work outdoors face an increased risk of suffering a heat-related illness.
The high hit 90 degrees in Bend on Monday and 93 on Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service, and daytime temperatures are expected to remain at 90 or 91 until Saturday, when the forecast predicts a high of 88 degrees.
Several of those working outside Tuesday in the High Desert heat said their employers have trained them on the dangers of heat-related illnesses.
At Summit High School, construction worker Lance Skinner, who works for Bend-based Griffin Construction LLC, said he and his co-workers learned how to recognize and prevent heat-related illness.
“Usually your partner can see it before you know what is happening to you,” said Skinner. “Not sweating, confusion and dizziness are all signs of heat exhaustion. If someone is experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke, we usually get fluids in them, let them rest and get cold rags around their neck.”
More than 100 workers died from heat-related illnesses in California, Texas and other states between 2008 and 2013, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Although Oregon recorded no deaths, 33 people in the state received benefits due to heat-related illness from 2009 to 2013, according to Oregon OSHA, which handles workplace safety and health issues.
The federal agency launched a nationwide Heat Illness Prevention Campaign in 2011. It has reached more than 10.7 million people and distributed close to 500,000 fact sheets, posters and other informational items to employers and workers, according to the OSHA website.
Bend Park & Recreation District landscapers go through beat-the-heat training, with much of the information provided by OSHA and partner agencies, according to landscape manager Mike Duarte. The training started last spring and covers topics such as proper hydration, signs of overexposure and what to do if feeling fatigued or ill due to the heat.
“We know the hot weather is coming, so it’s just constant awareness, and making sure we have proper hydration,” said Duarte. “Everyone takes standard breaks, but if they aren’t feeling well and if it’s hot, they can take extra shade breaks. We provide ball caps and wide-brim hats, sunscreen, lip balm and water and ice for our workers.”
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which partners with OSHA, developed a heat index, which allows employers to gauge daily heat and humidity conditions and know their region’s risk level. Combined with other protective measures, it can help employers lower the rate of heat-related incidents on the job.
Wade Skellenger, a licensed contractor who also works as a carpenter for Greg Welch Construction in Bend, believes that most outdoor workers feel exhausted from the heat by the end of the day.
“All I really say is just drink water,” said Skellenger, who was working at NorthWest Crossing. “We don’t really have a choice but to drink water. We can’t go hide in the shade to stay cool.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0325
Preventing heat-related illness
• Perform the most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
• Work in pairs to monitor the heat.
• Drink a small cup of cool water every 15 to 20 minutes.
• Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
• Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas to cool down.
• Avoid eating large meals before working in the heat.
• Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages.
Source: Oregon OSHA