Preventing Heat Illness in the Workplace

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/08/2022 - 12:29
worker in hard hat drinking bottle of water

With heatwaves hitting areas all across the world, it's becoming ever more important to prioritize workplace safety and avoid heat illness. To make it happen, there are a few things you'll need to know first--so here's your crash-course in "summer workplace safety" (or any other scenario where heat illness is a risk).

What is Heat Illness?

To promote workplace safety in ways that make a difference, your first goal is to understand what you're up against. In hot weather, that means facing off with a variety of different heat illnesses:


Although dehydration isn't necessarily caused by heat, hot temperatures can be an important factor. That's because dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than it takes in--and since hard work in the heat leads to a lot of sweating, this condition should always be on your radar when it comes to workplace safety.

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can sometimes seem like a more mild form of heat stroke. It includes symptoms like dizziness, excessive sweating, headache, and nausea, and it's usually treated by helping the patient cool down and drink plenty of liquids.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke can be serious. This condition occurs when your body loses the ability to control its own temperature (for example, through sweating), causing you to quickly overheat. Symptoms can include slurred speech, seizures, and coma, and severe heat stroke could even be fatal.

Obstacles to Workplace Safety

It's one thing to know what heat illness looks like and how it occurs, but it's another thing entirely to actual prevent it. That's because there are often a variety of obstacles to workplace safety, including:

  • Lack of information: When employees and employers don't know the signs of heat illness or how to prevent it, they can make simple mistakes that lead to potentially serious consequences.
  • Lack of resources: In some cases, workers understand how to prevent heat illness but don't have the appropriate resources--like a source of cold water or a safe place to cool off--to promote workplace safety on their own.
  • Poor time management: Even with all the right tools and information, employees might still struggle to put those elements into action. For example, they may not know how much of their day to dedicate to preventive measures, which can lead to frustration and stress.
  • Pressure to continue work: Some employees may feel pressured to continue working at full capacity even in unsafe conditions. This is especially true if your team is facing worker shortages or other delays, which can make employees feel like they're letting the team down when they need to take a break.

If these obstacles aren't addressed, heat illness can become a big problem on your work site--and it might not be the only issue you face. After all, setting the stage for workplace safety is important no matter the temperature--which means obstacles like these can lead to other problems as well.

Improving Workplace Safety in the Heat

So, now that you know what you're up against, how do you improve workplace safety and help prevent heat illness? Here are a few key tips:

#1: Invest in workplace safety training.

Courses like our OSHA Heat Illness Prevention training can help workers learn more about heat illness risk factors, symptoms, and prevention techniques. This information helps employees protect themselves and each other on the job.

#2: Create a "break culture."

Workers need it know that it's okay to take a break. Instead of creating a culture where it's expected to just "push through" potentially unsafe situations like high temperatures, make your workplace one where everyone feels safe taking a break when necessary.

#3: Know your workers.

Some people are at higher risk of heat illness than others. For example, people with asthma, diabetes, heart disease, poor physical fitness, or a history of heat sensitivity might be more likely to struggle on the job. It's important for employers to know their workers' needs and provide the appropriate resources and training to help prevent safety issues. It's also important to offer things like water fountains, air conditioning, and first aid training to support your entire workforce.

In conclusion, preventing heat illness is just one element of workplace safety--but as high temperatures become the norm, this one element is increasingly important.

Are you ready to improve workplace safety and overcome obstacles like the ones we covered today? Contact us to learn more about workplace safety training courses.