Heat Stress at Work

Saturday, August 08, 2015

We are halfway through the summer, with hot temperatures and high levels of humidity being present pretty much every day. While some of us get to work inside the comfort of an air conditioned office, others have to spend their days doing hard labor outside, which presents a number of health risks.

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related disorder, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health; it occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. Without proper emergency treatment, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or even death.

When working onsite outdoors this summer, keep an eye out for these symptoms, both in yourself and in fellow workers:

  • Hot, dry and red skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Body temperature of over 103° F
  • Unconsciousness


Fortunately, heat stroke is preventable. The following are recommended to avoid the onset of heat stroke while working outdoors:

  • Drink two to four glasses of water every hour.
  • Avoid drinks containing sugar, such as coffee and soda, as these can cause dehydration.
  • Try to limit outside work to the morning and late afternoon, when heat is less intense.
  • Rest in a shaded area regularly.
  • Wear lighter colored, loose-fitted clothing.
  • Protect yourself from the sun: wear a hat and sunglasses, and apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.

If you suspect that someone on your team is coming down with heat stroke, contact emergency medical services and move the person to a shaded area. Place him or her in a tub of cool water or spray them with a garden hose. Do not give them any fluids to drink.

The best thing you can do to prevent heat stroke in your employees is to prepare them for harsh summer conditions. Expose them to hot environments for progressively longer periods of time and provide heat stress training. When on the job, bring extra workers, especially if the job is very physically demanding, and schedule frequent resting periods in cool areas with access to water.

Courtesy of the Safety and Health Magazine

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