Protecting Your Employees from Overheating

Drinking Water

Water should have a palatable (pleasant and odor-free) taste and water temperature should be 50° to 60°F, if possible.

Other Drinks

Encourage workers to choose water over soda and other drinks containing caffeine and high sugar content. These drinks may lead to dehydration. Drinks with some flavoring added may be more palatable to workers and thereby improve hydration. Encourage workers to avoid drinking alcohol during hot weather events.

Actions for Moderate Risk Conditions

Heat Index is 91° to 103° F

Review heat-related illness signs and precautions with workers. Remind workers to drink water. Provide workers opportunities to rest in cool, shaded areas. Be aware of conditions that could increase risk.

  • Alert workers to the heat index anticipated for the day and identify each precaution in place at the work site to reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
  • Provide adequate amounts of cool water and disposable cups in convenient, visible locations close to the work area.
  • Remind workers to drink small amounts of water often (before they become thirsty). A good rule of thumb is to drink about four cups of water every hour when the heat index suggests a moderate risk level.
  • Ensure that adequate medical services are available. Where medical services (e.g., emergency medical services, clinic, hospital) are not available within three to four minutes, you must have appropriately trained personnel and adequate medical supplies on site. The trained personnel should have a valid certificate in first aid training from the American Red Cross or equivalent training. (A first aid certificate is required at maritime and construction worksites.)
  • Respond to heat-related illness and medical emergencies without delay. Workers who show symptoms of heat-related illness need immediate attention. Treating milder symptoms (headache, weakness) early by providing rest in a shaded area and cool water to drink can prevent a more serious medical emergency. Call 911 immediately if a worker loses consciousness or appears confused or uncoordinated. These are signs of possible heat stroke. Heat stroke is fatal if not treated immediately.
  • Review heat-related illness signs and symptoms and site-specific precautions during daily meetings or toolbox talks. Be sure everyone knows procedures for responding to possible heat-related illness.
    • What steps to follow if a worker exhibits signs and symptoms of heat-related illness
    • Who to call for medical help
    • Who will provide first aid until the ambulance arrives
  • Schedule frequent rest breaks in cool, shaded areas.
    • Provide air conditioned or shaded areas close to the work area.
    • Set up temporary shade when working in open fields or areas without easy access to shade or air conditioning.
  • Acclimatize new and returning workers. Gradually increase the workload or allow more frequent breaks to help new and returning workers build up a tolerance for hot conditions over time. If the heat index increases suddenly, allow all workers more frequent breaks for a few days while they become accustomed to the warmer conditions.
  • Implement actions for the High Risk Conditions (103° to 115°F) if heat index approaches 103°F or work is strenuous, in direct sunlight, or involves the use of heavy or non-breathable clothing or impermeable chemical protective clothing.
  • Set up a buddy system, if possible, to enable workers to look out for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness in each other. Often, a worker will not recognize his own signs and symptoms.
  • Instruct supervisors to watch workers for signs of heat-related illness. Check routinely to make sure workers are making use of water and shade, and not experiencing heat-related symptoms.
  • Encourage workers to wear sunscreen and use other protections from direct sunlight. Provide shade, hats, and sunscreen, when possible. Sunburn reduces the skin’s ability to release excess heat, making the body more susceptible to heat-related illness. Repeated overexposure to sunlight also leads to skin cancer.