Preventing Heat Illness for Outdoor Workers
As the high heat of summer quickly descends upon us, it’s important to take the time to review heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them. The NOAA’s National Weather Service describes four types of heat-induced disorders. We’ll describe each disorder and then provide you with some tips for preventing these heat-related illnesses.
Heat Illness Symptoms
- SUNBURN: Most likely we’ve all felt the pain of a sunburn and hopefully by now everyone is aware of the danger of skin cancer. A severe sunburn can also cause swelling, blistering, fever, and headache.
- HEAT CRAMPS: Heat cramps are just what they sound like. As your body temperature rises, your muscles can cramp up. Normally this occurs in the leg and abdomen muscles and is accompanied by heavy sweating.
- HEAT EXHAUSTION/STRESS: Heat exhaustion or stress is characterized by one or more of the following: profuse sweating, dizziness and fainting, pale, cold and clammy skin, fatigue, intense headaches and nausea.
- HEAT STROKE: Heat stroke is a severe condition. Seek immediate medical care if you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself or others: excessive body temperature (over 106°), red, dry skin (sweating has ceased), disorientation and altered behavior.
- Whenever possible, move your work to a shaded area. If not, take frequent breaks in shaded areas.
- Always wear sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has a SPF of at least 15. Reapply every two hours.
- Keep your shirt on while working.
- Stay hydrated!
- Wear lightweight, light-colored, breathable clothing.
- Do not drink alcohol and limit your consumption of caffeinated beverages.
- If possible, avoid working outside during the hottest time of the day, normally between 11AM and 4PM. Or try scheduling heavy duty work for the cooler hours of the day.
Helpful Heat Safety Links:
- OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers – OSHA’s webpage dedicated to providing employers and employees with more information on how to beat the heat.
- Heat Safety App – Download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool to your phone and know when the heat index is reaching dangerous levels. Also provides tips for what you should do about it.
- National Weather Service Heat Safety Page
The NOAA published this Heat Index Chart to help you understand how humidity affects the heat your body feels: