Heat Illnesses and Workplace Safety

People who work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and are more likely to develop a heat-related illness. Heat stroke is the most serious type of heat-related disorder. It occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature. When this happens, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10-15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has provided information to help recognize heat stroke and administer the proper first aid. Symptoms of heat stroke include hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headache, high body temperature, confusion/dizziness and slurred speech. Take the following steps to treat a worker with heat stroke: (1) call 911 immediately; (2) move the worker to a cool, shaded environment; (3) cool the worker by soaking their clothes with water; (4) spraying/sponging/showering them with water and (5) fanning their body.

Employers should take precautions to protect their workers from heat illness. The CDC offers guildelines, including scheduling hot jobs for the cooler part of the day, acclimatizing workers by exposing them for progressively longer time periods to hot work environments and providing rest periods with water breaks. The CDC and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) provide more informational resources at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/heatstress/.