Safety Alert: Heat Illness Prevention Tips During Summer Months

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It doesn’t take much to combat heat-related issues. Remember the mantra – water, rest and shade.


As we enter the hottest time of summer in some parts of the country, companies that have employees working outdoors or in hot environments need to remember that heat-related sickness can cause serious injury or even death. If a worker gets dehydrated, they will be less productive and alert. They could become more dangerous to themselves and others.

It doesn’t take much to combat heat-related issues. Remember the mantra – water, rest and shade. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 18 people die each year from heat stroke and related causes on the job. Employers have a responsibility to protect workers from excessive heat.

If it gets very hot in your facility, you should develop a heat illness prevention program.

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This starts with assessing your facility and operations. Are there areas where employees work outdoors a lot in the summer? Can you provide shade for those work areas or temporary rest periods where employees can have some shade to cool down? Do employees have access to water with coolers and water fountains? Some companies provide fans to circulate air and cool down the building. It can be difficult to heat and cool buildings where doors are open and forklifts are always coming and going. But you can take measures to help employees stay cool. See the list on Table 1.

The two most common heat issues for workers are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion is the less severe condition because heat stroke can result in death. See graphic for leading indicators of both conditions.

A key component of heat safety is annual training so that workers know how to spot conditions. And it is the manager’s responsibility to be alert and take action because the employee may not want to stop to drink, take rest or shade. Also, you should train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention. They need to know the signs of heat illness and what steps to take to prevent it and treat the condition.

Table 1

Key Steps to Prevent Heat Illness

• Provide enough fresh water so that each employee can drink at least one quart per hour, or four 8-ounce glasses of water per hour, and encourage them to do so even if they are not thirsty.

• Provide access to shade and encourage outdoor employees to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes. They should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.

• Closely observe all employees during a heat wave and any employee newly assigned to a high heat area. Lighter work, frequent breaks or shorter hours will help employees who have not been working in high temperatures adapt to the new conditions.

• Develop and implement written procedures for complying with the OSHA heat illness prevention standard, including plans on how to handle medical emergencies and steps to take if someone shows signs or symptoms of heat illness. Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.

• Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency and monitor workers for signs of illness.

• If working outdoors, wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

• Working in full sunlight can increase heat index values by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep this in mind and plan additional precautions for working in these conditions.

OSHA Resources onHeat Illness Prevention

Heat Exhaustion:

Sweaty Skin
Nausea, Vomiting
Fast heart beat

Heat Stroke:

Red, hot, dry skin
High temperature