How Workers Can Protect Themselves from Heat
Employers are responsible for keeping workers safe from heat, but there are steps workers can follow too.
- By Alex Saurman
- Jul 20, 2022
As weathers become more extreme this summer, protecting yourself from extreme heat is important.
Although employers hold a responsibility to keep workers safe from heat, there are steps workers can follow to keep themselves safe.
According to OSHA, start work slowly. Workers who don’t have a tolerance to heat should “follow the 20 percent rule” to acclimate. When working in heat, don’t work more than 20 percent of your shift in “full intensity in the heat,” OSHA says. Each day, workers should increase the time by an additional 20 percent, but no more.
Drinking water throughout the shift is also important. Regardless of thirst, you should drink a minimum of one cup of cool water every 20 minutes, OSHA says.
Rest breaks should be taken to recover, and shaded or cool places used for breaks.
You can also keep yourself safe from the heat by wearing certain clothing, like “a hat and light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing,” according to OSHA.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat illness can help you know what to do. Workers in both indoor and outdoor heat can be at risk for heat exhaustion or heat stroke. According to the CDC, look out for signs like heavy sweating, nausea, muscle cramps or a headache for heat exhaustion. (For a full list of symptoms, click here.) Heat stroke signs include a “high body temperature,” “hot, red, dry, or damp skin,” a “fast, strong pulse” and “confusion.” (For more symptoms, click here.)
If you or a coworker are experiencing the signs of heat exhaustion, get out of the sun and find a cool area to rest. Drinking water is important. If you can, remove or loosen clothing and cool down with wet cloths or a bath, the CDC says. If you or a coworker have signs of heat stroke, call 911 and find a cool place to rest. You should attempt to cool the person with cloths or a bath.
Alex Saurman is the Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.