How to Prevent Heat Stroke on the Job

Josiah Warkentin on Apr 2, 2013 2:17:00 PM

Every year, thousands of people get sick or even die from a silent killer in the workplace

Heat Stroke 2 scaledMany people are exposed to heat on the job—outdoors or in hot indoor environments. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

Workplaces with these conditions may include:

    • Iron and steel foundries
    • Other foundries
    • Brick-firing and ceramic plants
    • Glass products facilities
    • Rubber products factories
    • Electrical utilities, particularly in boiler rooms
    • Bakeries
    • Confectioneries
    • Commercial kitchens
    • Laundries
    • Food canneries
    • Chemical plants
    • Mining sites
    • Smelters
    • Steam tunnels

Every year, thousands of workers become ill from occupational heat exposure, and some of these people die. 

Heat Stroke 1Heat stroke is preventable.
When hot, the body tries to rid itself of excess heat by circulating the blood to the skin to cool it down. In hot environments, the blood doesn’t cool off, and may even heat up more. The only other way the body has of cooling off is to sweat, but if the environment has high humidity, this doesn’t work very well.  It can become worse if there is:

    • High temperature and humidity
    • Radiating heat sources
    • Contact with hot objects
    • Direct sun exposure (no shade)
    • Limited air movement (no breeze, wind, or ventilation)
    • Physical exertion
    • Bulky or non-breathable protective gear

If it cannot cool down, the body will take the heat in and the core temperature will rise, causing these other symptoms:

    • Heart rate increases
    • Loss of concentration
    • Difficulty Focusing
    • Irritability
    • May be sick
    • Loss of desire to drink

Excessive exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash to heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention. 

What should I do?
Know these symptoms:

    • High body temperature (104*F or higher)
    • Lack of sweating
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Flushed skin
    • Rapid breathing
    • Racing heart-rate
    • Headache
    • Confusion
    • Unconsciousness
    • Muscle cramps or weakness

If you think a person has heat-stroke:

    • Call 911.
    • Move the victim into the shade and remove excess clothing
    • Place ice-packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits, and groin
    • Mist with water while a fan is blowing on the person

How can heat stroke be prevented?
Heat-related illnesses are easily prevented with a few simple measures, such as:

    • Air-conditioning and ventilation
    • Having work/rest cycles for workers
    • Drinking lots of water
    • Slowly building up to the heat

Heat Stroke 3Employers should include prevention steps in worksite training and plans, but it is not just up to the employer to keep people safe. It is also up to you. Know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Learn more about this at Osha Heatstress. Plan for emergencies and know what to do, because acting quickly can save lives.


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