Heat Stress

High temperature and high humidity can stress the body and interfere with the body’s ability to cool itself. When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heat related disorders can occur. These disorders range from the transient heat fatigue to heat rash, dizziness, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, with heat stroke being a life threatening disorder.

In the workplace, hot work environments are a common cause of heat stress. In addition to causing heat related illnesses, hot environments also reduce productivity and increase the risk of injuries from accidents. Slippery palms from sweating, foggy safety glasses, and momentary dizziness are common causes of workplace accidents, especially, in the summer.

Disorders resulting form heat stress and the resulting risk of injuries are easy to avoid.

Here are some guidelines from OSHA on how to recognize, prevent, and deal with heat stress.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Headaches, dizziness, light headedness or fainting.
  • Weakness and moist skin.
  • Mood changes such as irritability or confusion.
  • Upset stomach or vomiting.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating.
  • Mental confusion or losing consciousness.
  • Seizures or fits.

Preventing Heat Stress

  • Know signs/symptoms of heat-related illnesses; monitor yourself and coworkers.
  • Block out direct sun or other heat sources.
  • Use cooling fans/air-conditioning; rest regularly.
  • Drink lots of water; about 1 cup every 15 minutes.
  • Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks, or heavy meals.

What to Do for Heat-Related Illness

Call 911 (or local emergency number) at once.

While waiting for help to arrive:

  • Move the worker to a cool, shaded area.
  • Loosen or remove heavy clothing.
  • Provide cool drinking water.
  • Fan and mist the person with water.

Links to Heat Stress Training Products