Heat Stress Prevention

Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries.

Your body’s heat combined with environmental heat results in what is known as your core temperature – your body’s internal temperature. Your body needs to regulate the heat gain from the environment to maintain a core temperature that is normally about 98.6℉.

Causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, dehydration, overdressing, and strenuous physical activity. Heat stress can result in thirst, fatigue, heat cramps, heat rashes, or heat exhaustion. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms include:

  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

Risk factors include a high heat index, sudden temperature changes, lack of training or lack of safety equipment and hydration.

In 2015, 33 of 37 fatal work injuries caused by exposure to environmental heat occurred in the summer months of June through September, along with 2,830 non-fatal occupational injuries caused by heat stress. Texas and California had the highest number of non-fatal injuries and illnesses with days away from work. An average worker’s comp claim for injuries related to excessive heat exposure is $9,000. A heat stress related injury can cost over $40,000 per occurrence. A fatal accident can be over $1.4 million per occurrence.

Awareness and education are critical, combined with the use of effective hydration and cooling products. Symptoms are often overlooked or ignored by both supervisors and employees themselves. 78% of heat illness victims get dehydrated even if drinking water is available at the worksite.

Fortunately, heat stress is preventable. Employers should provide hydration, cooling products and training to workers so they understand what heat stress is, how it affects their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.