Preventing Heat Illness in Cemeteries and Crematories

As temperatures rise, the risk of heat-related illnesses for workers in the death care industry increases significantly. Cemetery workers, who work outside most days, and crematory employees, who face high temperatures daily, are of the greatest risk. Understanding the symptoms, knowing how to administer first aid, and implementing preventive measures are crucial for safeguarding the well-being of employees in these unique workplaces.

Recognizing the Symptoms: Heat illness can manifest in various forms, ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions. Workers should be vigilant for symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, cramps, weakness or fatigue, confusion, and profuse sweating. These signs may indicate heat exhaustion or, in severe cases, heatstroke, which demands immediate medical attention.

Administering First Aid: Prompt action is essential when dealing with heat-related illnesses. First aid for heat-related illness involves the following principles:
  • Take the affected worker to a cooler area (e.g., shade or air conditioning).
  • Cool the worker immediately. Use active cooling techniques such as:
    • Immerse the worker in cold water or an ice bath. Create the ice bath by placing all of the available ice into a large container with water, standard practice in sports. This is the best method to cool workers rapidly in an emergency.
    • Remove outer layers of clothing, especially heavy protective clothing.
    • Place ice or cold wet towels on the head, neck, trunk, armpits, and groin.
    • Use fans to circulate air around the worker.
  • Never leave a worker with heat-related illness alone. The illness can rapidly become worse. Stay with the worker.
  • When in doubt, call 911!
  • Confusion, slurred speech, or unconsciousness are signs of heat stroke. When these types of symptoms are present, call 911 immediately and cool the worker with ice or cold water until help arrives.

Preventing Heat Illness: Prevention is key to ensuring the safety and well-being of workers in crematories and cemeteries, especially during hot weather. Employers should prioritize the following measures:

  1. Hydration: Encourage frequent hydration by providing ample access to cool water throughout the workday. Workers should be reminded to drink fluids regularly, even if they do not feel thirsty; aim for about 1 cup every hour!

  2. Appropriate Attire: Dressing in lightweight, breathable clothing can help regulate body temperature. Additionally, wearing hats and sunglasses and using sunscreen can provide protection against the sun's harmful rays.

  3. Scheduled Breaks: Implementing regular breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas allows workers to rest and cool down periodically, reducing the risk of heat-related illnesses.

  4. Work Scheduling: Consider adjusting work schedules to avoid the hottest parts of the day, if possible. Early morning or late afternoon shifts may offer cooler temperatures and mitigate exposure to extreme heat.

  5. Training and Education: Educate employees about the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, as well as proper preventive measures and first aid procedures. Empowering workers to recognize and respond to potential hazards is crucial for maintaining a safe working environment.

In conclusion, heat illness poses significant risks to workers in crematories and cemeteries, where exposure to high temperatures is often unavoidable. By staying vigilant, administering timely first aid, and implementing preventive measures, employers can prioritize the health and safety of their employees, ensuring a secure and productive work environment even in challenging conditions.