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Can You Take the Heat? 5 Tips to Reduce Heat Exposure

13 July, 2023


5 Tips to Reduce Heat Exposure 

Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat elements in their workplace each year. Hazardous heat exposure can occur both indoors, outdoors, and across multiple industries.  

  • 702 heat-related deaths occur each year
  • 67,000 ER visits annually
  • 50%-70% of heat-related deaths occur on a worker's first day on the job  

Workers are often required to work in the heat for long periods of time. Many that are just starting out are not used to the amount of heat they are exposed to and are the most susceptible to heat illness. There are two types of heat-related illnesses may occur if the body is unable to regulate its temperature such as: 

  • Exertional heat illness-A result of exertion (metabolic heat generated by muscle activity in the body). 
  • Environmental heat illness-Attributed to ambient conditions, including heat and relative humidity.

What Are the Signs of Heat Illness?  

If heat dissipation does not happen quickly, the internal body temperature will continue to rise, and workers may experience symptoms that include, but are not limited to: 

  • Rashes-- Red cluster of pimples or small blisters commonly found on the neck and upper chest. 
  • Cramps-- Pains felt in the muscles, often with spasms, and usually in conjunction with strenuous activity 
  • Heat exhaustion-Headaches, dizziness, body temperature greater than 100F 
  • Heat stroke-Confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures  

What to Do When Workers Experience Symptoms? 

Never leave a worker with heat illness alone. The illness can take a rapid turn for the worse. When any signs are present, follow these steps: 

  • Remove the worker from the hot area and provide water 
  • Use cold compresses to cool the worker
  • Provide the worker with a cooler environment and powder for areas where a rash is present  
  • Call 911 if the worker has lost consciousness or may be experiencing a seizure 

How Can Heat Illness Be Prevented?

Heat illness is preventable. It's important to gradually build a tolerance to the heat over time through a process called heat acclimatization. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), the gradual intensity of the heat exposure could take 1-2 weeks for workers to acclimate. Follow these five tips to prevent worker heat exposure:  

  1. Drink water-Drink water every 15 minutes in hot conditions 
  2. Dress for the heat-Wearing light, loose-fitted, and light-colored clothing will keep you cooler and help prevent heat exhaustion.  
  3. Take breaks-Take frequent breaks in a cool, shaded place  
  4. Modified work schedule- Schedule shifts earlier in the day to reduce the amount of heat exposure, such as more physically demanding projects
  5. Emergency planning-Create a plan for emergencies. Train workers on how to be helpful in an emergency. 

Under OSHA's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), employers are required to provide a safe workspace that "is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees." The employer should be up to date on industry hazards and create a safety plan. Not every state requires a heat illness plan. It's a good idea to have one in place anyway. Below are some important elements to consider when creating a plan: 

  • Acclimatization methods and procedures 
  • Procedures for providing sufficient water 
  • Procedures for providing access to shade 
  • High-heat procedures 
  • Emergency response procedures 

Get help crafting a system that will provide the safety communication you need. Call 1-888-326-9244 and one of our experts will guide you through the process. 


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