Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses
There are important steps employers can take before anyone heads out to work for the day:
- Stay informed on the local weather forecast, especially if high temperatures are predicted.
- On abnormally hot and humid days, try to limit strenuous work to the cooler early morning or evening hours, or reschedule work altogether if possible.
- Monitor workers who are performing more strenuous jobs. They may need to take additional breaks on extremely hot days.
- Encourage workers to “pre-load” (drink) water. A big part of the effectiveness of a heat-related illness prevention program rests with training employees and management on how to take care in hot weather.
Training is Key
Supervisory staff should be trained to:
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of heat illness. Remember that the signs and symptoms often mimic other health conditions such as heart attacks. A person suffering from heat illness may also appear disoriented or even intoxicated (see training box).
- Provide immediate care and first aid to those showing symptoms.
- Know how and when to transport employees for emergency medical care.
- Know the location/address where work is taking place so the emergency response team can locate them.
- Take steps for acclimatizing workers to the hot weather. It can take five to seven working days to adjust to working in hot weather.
Employees should be trained to:
- Drink fluids before, during and after work to stay hydrated.
- Avoid beverages with alcohol or caffeine; they can increase dehydration.
- Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses in themselves and others, and let someone know if they or their co-workers are not feeling well.
- Understand environmental and personal risk factors for heat illness.
- Know the importance of acclimatization.
- Take sufficient rest breaks in a shady or cool area, especially if they are not used to the heat.
- Wear a hat and white or light-colored cotton clothing.
For an employee exhibiting signs of a heat-related illness:
- Have the employee rest in the shade or a cool environment.
- Help the employee cool down by fanning and applying damp towels.
- Provide fluids, but only if they are conscious.
- Medical help may be required if an employee is exhibiting symptoms.
Mild to Moderate Symptoms
– Skin becomes cold & pale
– Heart rate increases
– Excessive sweating
– Nausea & headache
|– Rest in the shade
– Drink water
– Seek appropriate medical attention including calling 911
Serious to Severe Symptoms
|– Sweating stops
– Hot, dry skin
– Deep, rapid breathing
– Severe headache & nausea
– Loss of consciousness
|– Call 911 for medical help immediately!
– Rest in the shade
– Only give fluids if the employee is conscious
Important Online Resources:
- OSHA Safety and Health Topics – Heat Exposure
- OSHA Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers (English)(Spanish)
- Educational Resources for workers and employers. Includes links to downloadable posters, factsheets, tips, wallet cards, lesson plans and more. Available in English and Spanish.
- Training guide for employers to train workers: Provides tailgate and toolbox talks in English and Spanish.
- Employers’ guide to using the heat index.
- Heat Safety Tool: Online and downloadable smartphone app for calculating heat index (English)(Spanish)
- Heat Illness e-Tool (Cal/OSHA) Contains information on the elements of an effective heat-illness prevention program.
- Preventing Heat Stress – Zenith Risk Management Bulletin
- Zenith’s Resource Library offers a variety of paycheck stuffers and posters, including:
- How to recognize heat exhaustion
- How to recognize heat stroke
- Stay cool in the summer heat
- Summer safety tips (English & Spanish)
Zenith Insurance Company (Zenith) assists employers in evaluating workplace safety exposures. Any recommendations and related services are not and should not be construed as legal or medical advice or be used as a substitute for legal or medical advice. Employee protection is ultimately the responsibility of the employer.