Feeling the Heat | Heat Stress: Warning Signs & Prevention

During the higher temperatures of the summer months, workers and employers need to be aware of the increased risks of heat illnesses. When your body is unable to get rid of excess heat, your body’s core temperature rises and your heart rate increases. This causes “heat stress” and it can have many health effects, such as loss of concentration, feeling sick, fainting, or even death. Heat stress can present as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke, each having their own set of symptoms.

Warning Signs You May Have Heat Stress

  • High body temperature
  • Profuse sweating
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion
  • Throbbing headache
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Muscle pain or spasms
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Seizures

When heat stress symptoms are first noticed, workers should stop working, move to a cool or shaded place, drink water (if possible), and seek medical attention. More information on the specific first aid for different heat symptoms can be found at OSHA’s Heat Illnesses and First Aid.

Heat Stress Prevention

To help prevent heat stress, workers should avoid extreme heat, heavy sun exposure, high humidity, and heavy exertion whenever possible. Also, be aware that personal protective equipment may increase the risks of heat stress. When working under these types of conditions, workers can take the following steps to help avoid heat stress:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine.
  • Wear light-colored, loose clothing (where it’s safe to do so).
  • Keep shaded, where possible.
  • Apply and reapply sunblock throughout the day.
  • On hot days, do lighter work and shorten shifts.
  • Use a buddy system where co-workers monitor each other for heat stress symptoms.

For more information on Heat Illnesses, see the CDC page on Heat Stress. Also, see our 100% Online courses on Heat Illness Prevention for Employees and Heat Illness Prevention for Supervisors.

Date Posted: 06-12-2020
Tags: heat illness prevention, heat stress prevention, osha safety training, osha workplace safety, workplace hazards,
Categories: OSHA Safety,