Workers and Heat Illness
In hot conditions workers can easily become ill or injured. Workers who are more at risk are those who are 65 years or older, are overweight, have heart disease or other chronic health conditions, or take medications that make it harder for the body to cool itself. Others are at risk because of their workplace, type of work, or because they are not used to working in the heat.
Why worry about them when it is hot?
- Some Jobs are Hotter than Others: Many workers are exposed to high heat on the job all the time (examples: bakery workers, boiler room workers, factory workers). People who work outside are at risk when the weather is really hot (examples: farmers, construction workers).
- Heavy Work Means Extra Risk: When it is hot out, people with jobs that require heavy, physical work are more at risk for heat illness.
- Duty Calls: Work duties may prevent workers from taking frequent rest breaks, using air conditioning, drinking enough fluids, staying out of the sun, or wearing loose and lightweight clothing.
What Workers Can Do
- Remember three simple words: water, rest, shade.
- Drink lots of fluids like water, or drinks that have electrolytes and other nutrients, like sports drinks. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Take frequent breaks in the shade or in a cooler location, and limit working time in the heat if possible.
- Wear proper protective clothing – but make it as loose and lightweight as possible.
- Build up to heavy work in hot conditions by gradually increasing workloads and taking more frequent breaks during the first week of hot weather – or the first week of work if you are new to working in the heat, or have been away from work for a week or more.
- Know how to recognize heat illness. Monitor yourself and others when it is hot. Contact a supervisor right away if you or anyone else shows signs of heat illness. If a supervisor is not available, call 911.
Tips for Employers
- Adjust work schedules to provide workers with breaks from the heat.
- Postpone non-essential tasks.
- Provide cool rest areas as well as shade and water for workers.
- Ensure workers are drinking enough fluids to stay hydrated.
- Allow workers time to adjust to the hot environment.
- Train workers and supervisors to recognize heat illness and how to prevent it. Order training materials from MEMIC or SafetyWorks .
- OSHA Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers
- OHSA Heat Safety App (Calculates Heat Index and provides risk estimate; English/Spanish)
- OSHA Information on Using the Heat Index: A Guide for Employers
- NIOSH Heat Stress Information
- CDC Heat Toolkit for Outdoor Workers
- OSHA Standards for Heat Stress