Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat in their workplaces. Although illness from exposure to heat is preventable, every year, thousands become sick from occupational heat exposure, and some cases are fatal.
What is a heat-related illness?
If heat dissipation does not happen quickly enough, the internal body temperature keeps rising and the worker may experience symptoms that include thirst, irritability, a rash, cramping, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.
More heat-related illness and appropriate first aid: https://www.osha.gov/heat-exposure/illness-first-aid
How can heat-related illness be prevented?
Workers who have not spent time recently in warm or hot environments and/or being physically active will need time to build tolerance (acclimatize or, less frequently used, acclimate) to the heat. During their first few days in warm or hot environments, employers should encourage workers to:
- Consume adequate fluids (water and sport drinks)
- work shorter shifts,
- take frequent breaks, and
- quickly identify any heat illness symptoms.
Engineering controls such as air conditioning, with cooled air, and increased air flow, leading to increased evaporative cooling, can make the workplace safer. Other options for keeping body temperatures down in warm environments include making changes to workload and schedules.
Heat illness can contribute to decreased performance, lost productivity due to illness and hospitalization, and possibly death. OSHA encourages water, rest, and shade as prevention as well as treatment for heat-related illness.
How to make yourself safer and more aware