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High Heat and Humidity: A Risky Combo

By BUCS(SCW/EXW) Jonathan E. Ring, Force Safety Officer, 1NCD, Naval Construction Forces Command and Tony Militello, P.E., Safety Program Manager, NAVFAC

High humidity and high temperatures – whether outdoors or indoors – can cause heat stress, heat stroke and even death if not treated properly.

Signs and symptoms include fatigue, headaches, cramps, dizziness and fainting, and may be accompanied by profuse sweating. You should monitor the situation closely and be ready to act, as these conditions may indicate a true medical emergency that requires immediate attention.

Heat risks can be mitigated through the implementation of a series of controls:

  • Properly hydrate, and take breaks during exercise or working in an elevated heat condition.
  • Wear head covers and loose-fitting clothing when possible.
  • Limit workout clothing specifically designed to restrict evaporation.
  • Consider scheduling high-exertion activities in the early part of the day or evening.
  • When supervising work, carefully monitor employees, provide frequent breaks and ensure liquids are available for hydration.

When risks are unable to be sufficiently mitigated and you or your shipmate exhibits the signs of heat-related injury or illness, immediate treatment is essential. Some initial steps should include:

  • Get (victim) out of the sun and into a cooler place, providing fan or air conditioning, if possible.
  • Lie down and remove excess clothing.
  • Apply cool, wet cloths to the body, especially between the legs.
  • If conscious, slowly consume cool water or electrolyte/sports drinks.
  • Do not give liquids that contain alcohol or caffeine.
  • Let the victim rest in a comfortable position and watch carefully for changes in condition.
  • If condition worsens, seek immediate professional medical attention.

Heat Stress Resource:

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/


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