Editor’s note: Curtis Wynne retired as an industrial safety professional before joining the News-Sun in 2015. Although he allowed his national safety certification to expire, he brought his years of experience to the newspaper with him.
Triple digit temperatures hit this week and my inner safety professional urged me to remind News-Sun readers of the hazards and ways to avoid heat-related illness or death. I used to give talks of this nature at company safety meetings, so this may be a refresher for some folks, but others might pick up an important fact or two.
Meanwhile, I received a news release from Xcel Energy suggesting how to stay cool without busting your budget. I’ll repeat some of the electric company’s suggestions.
Then, there are outdoor activities, whether work or play. If possible, those activities should be avoided during the hottest part of the day, say from mid-morning to at least mid-afternoon. The safest way to avoid heat-related illnesses is to stay indoors when possible.
When you can, schedule outdoor work earlier in the morning so you can go inside when temperatures spike.
Stay hydrated. Drink water BEFORE you get thirsty. The body needs water to cool itself through sweat and if you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
If you have to be in the sun, use a sunscreen, preferably with a high protection rating. A sunburn limits the body’s cooling efficiency.
Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur quickly, leading to delirium, organ damage and even death. In 2018, 162 people died in this country from exposure to excessive heat, according to the National Safety Council’s “Injury Facts.”
The National Safety Council says people most at risk include infants, young children, the elderly (over 65), the ill and the overweight, but everyone is susceptible under the right (or wrong) circumstances.
That’s why coworkers should keep a watch on each other. One may not be aware that he’s suffering from a heat-related illness.
Signs of heat exhaustion, when the body loses too much water and salt, usually from sweating, include sweating, pale or ashen skin, muscle cramps, fatigue, headache or dizziness, nausea or vomiting and rapid heart rate.
Since uncontrolled heat exhaustion can become heat stroke, make sure to treat the victim right away, moving him or her to a shaded or air-conditioned area, provide water or other cool beverage (nonalcoholic and non-caffeinated) and apply with towels or a cool shower.
If heat stroke occurs, a life is in danger. Call 911 immediately to get medical help. Signs of heat stroke generally include hot and dry skin with no sweating, rapid breathing, altered mental state such as confusion, irrational behavior and convulsions or simple lack of response.
While waiting for emergency medical help, move the victim to a cool place and take whatever steps are necessary to cool the body. The National Safety Council recommends immersing the victim up to the neck in cold water if you have a second rescuer to help you, a cold shower or covering with cold, wet towels.
Heat stroke victims should NOT be forced to drink water, nor should rubbing alcohol be applied or salt tablets be given, the NSC says.
Of course, you already know adults have a responsibility to care for their little ones and pets. So, why would anybody leave a child or pup in a car that likely will exceed 140 degrees Fahrenheit even with the windows down? Just saying.
Finally, check on your neighbors, too, especially the elderly who may be house bound. You can offer to host them in the air-conditioned comfort of your living room on hot days or drive them anywhere to get them out of a hot environment.
The news release from Xcel Energy pointed out much of the electricity bill during the summer comes from trying to keep cool on hot days.
“Most of us use more electricity in the summer to keep our homes and businesses cool, and that’s when we see our highest bills,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas. “It’s important to remember we have the power to control those costs if we pay a little more attention to how we’re using electricity and when we’re using it.”
Home cooling can account for about half of a summertime electric bill, Xcel’s release said. The best way customers can keep their bills low is to practice some basic conservation and efficiency habits, such as the following:
· Install a programmable thermostat that raises the setting when the house is empty, and lowers it to a comfortable level when everyone comes home;
· Use ceiling fans to help circulate cool air through the home;
· Open interior doors to improve the circulation of cool air inside;
· Use a whole-house or attic fan to draw in cool nighttime air and push out hot air during the day;
· Change air conditioning filters;
· Close drapes and blinds during the heat of the day.
Already doing most of that, so my bills should be pretty low.
Stay cool and hydrated this summer.