Preventing Heat Stress Illness

Welcome to Summer 2018!  It’s already been cooking up in temperatures around the Southeast and it’s important to plan for, and protect against, the threat of heat stress related illness in the construction industry.  Keep in mind that exposure to heat during work activities can lead to illness and death.  Symptoms of heat stress illness range from heat rash to cramps to exhaustion and stroke.  The are daily precautions that you and your teams can take when temperatures are high, and your daily activities involve physical work. 



Please review the following excerpt of heat stress illness prevention steps from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) Quick Card library:  

Risk Factors for Heat Illness 

  • High temperature and humidity, direct sun exposure, no breeze or wind  
  • Heavy physical labor 
  • No recent exposure to hot workplaces 
  • Low liquid intake  
  • Waterproof clothing  

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion 

  • Headache, dizziness, or fainting   
  • Weakness and wet skin   
  • Irritability or confusion 
  • Thirst, nausea, or vomiting 

 Symptoms of Heat Stroke 

  • May be confused, unable to think clearly, pass out, collapse, or have seizures (fits) 
  • May stop sweating 

 To Prevent Heat Illness 

  • Establish a complete heat illness prevention program. 
  • Provide training about the hazards leading to heat stress and how to prevent them. 
  • Provide a lot of cool water to workers close to the work area. At least one pint of water per hour is needed.   
  • Modify work schedules and arrange frequent rest periods with water breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas. 
  • Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for workers new to the heat or those that have been away from work to adapt to working in the heat (acclimatization). 
  • Designate a responsible person to monitor conditions and protect workers who are at risk of heat stress. 
  • Consider protective clothing that provides cooling. 

 How to Protect Workers 

  • Know signs/symptoms of heat illnesses; monitor yourself; use a buddy system. 
  • Block out direct sun and other heat sources. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drink often and BEFORE you are thirsty. Drink water every 15 minutes. 
  • Avoid beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. 
  • Wear lightweight, light colored, loose-fitting clothes.  

 What to Do When a Worker is Ill from the Heat 

  • Call a supervisor for help. If the supervisor is not available, call 911.  
  • Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives. 
  • Move the worker to a cooler/shaded area. 
  • Remove outer clothing. 
  • Fan and mist the worker with water; apply ice (ice bags or ice towels). 
  • Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink. 


IF THE WORKER IS NOT ALERT or seems confused, this may be a heat stroke. CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY and apply ice as soon as possible.  


Have a question for our experts? Leave your comment below and check out our website for more information. 

About Mike Estabrook


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Mike Estabrook leads our Safety initiative with the goals to achieve industry-leading safety outcomes and move safety forward at McKenney's. With almost 30 years of safety and risk consulting management experience, Mike works with his team of safety professionals to design and implement strategies that foster safe behaviors and produce "best in class" field safety practices across our company.

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