Rising temperatures can put employees at risk for heat illnesses. When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, heat illnesses such as heat stress, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke may occur. Symptoms range from mild and easily correctable to severe and life-threatening.
High temperatures and humidity, direct sun or heat, limited air movement, physical exertion, poor physical condition, and some medicines are contributing factors to heat illnesses.
Heat-related deaths are preventable when employees recognize the symptoms and know what to do. Watch out for the following signs:
- Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating;
- Confusion or dizziness;
- Nausea or vomiting;
- Rapid pulse;
- Muscle cramps;
- Weakness or fatigue; and
If employees experience signs of heat illness, they must seek immediate medical assistance by calling 911. Additionally, here are some proactive tips to beat the heat:
- Hydrate before, during, and after work. Prevention is important — drink at least 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes.
- Dress appropriately for the weather. On warm days, wear light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing to keep your body temperature down.
- Use the shade to stay cool. When possible, use shaded areas to stay out of direct sunlight.
Employees who have difficulty breathing or experience discomfort as a result of the heat while wearing a face covering must remove the covering until the discomfort ceases. However, if employees remove their face coverings, they must practice social distancing while in contact with others.
For more information about preventing heat illnesses, review the following resources:
- HERO Safety talk: Heat Illness Prevention Program (HIPP) Safety Talk #2068;
- HERO Course: Heat Illness Recognition and Prevention;
- Safety Depends on Me videos: blue.usps.gov/corpcomm/uspstv/safety-and-health;
- Safety Resource Tools, A–Z Safety Topics — Heat Illness Prevention: blue.usps.gov/hr/safety/heat-related-illness-prevention.htm;
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website: osha.gov; and
- National Safety Council website: nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/summer/heat.
— Occupational Safety and Health,
HQ Human Resources, 3-25-21