Keep It Cool! Preventing Heat Exhaustion in the Workplace

Date: July 27, 2012

Heat exhaustion tips

Hot weather is here! Last year, thousands of workers in the United States got sick from exposure to excessive heat on the job. Triple-digit temperatures are a reminder that heat exhaustion is most likely to blame when a worker experiences an excessive loss of water and salt, and is sweating profusely.

Among those most prone to heat exhaustion are employees who work in a hot environment, such as bakeries, laundries or outdoors who have high blood pressure or who are elderly.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness, confusion
  • Nausea
  • Clammy, moist skin
  • Pale or flushed complexion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Slightly elevated body temperature and/or
  • Fast and shallow breathing

Employees working in hot environments should be trained in first-aid treatment of heat exhaustion. When workers succumb to heat exhaustion:

  • Place them in a cool, shaded or air-conditioned area to rest.
  • Help them drink plenty of water or other cool, nonalcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages.
  •  If possible, have them take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath.

Employers can take a number of precautions to protect workers from heat exhaustion, starting with scheduling the most rigorous jobs for the coolest part of the day. Workers should also be allowed to become acclimatized to the heat by working for progressively longer periods in the heat. They should wear light-colored, loose-fitting, cotton clothing and be remind that wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) may increase the risk of heat stress.  Other important steps include:

  • Lightening the physical workload and using worker rotation.
  • Providing cool water or hydrating liquids (not caffeinated, sugary or alcoholic) for workers to drink.
  • Allowing workers to take rests with water in cool break areas.
  • Monitor those workers that are at higher risk of heat-related illness.
  • Train employees to be alert to the signs of heat stress, prevention, and first-aid treatment

Workers’ compensation claims from heat exhaustion can impact the cost of running your business. Learn more about NFIB member-exclusive workers’ compensation benefits »

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