The Heat is On!

by Deborah Z Mark


Can’t stand the heat?  Staying out of the kitchen (or other high temperature workplace) isn’t an option for many employees this time of year.

Employer Duty

Under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, as an employer, you have a duty to protect workers from recognized serious hazards in the workplace, including heat-related hazards. 

Age (older people are at greater risk due to less body water and lower sweat gland efficiency), weight (overweight people are at greater risk), and medications can affect heat tolerance.

Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions (especially those who have not built up a tolerance to those conditions) are at risk of heat illness, ranging from mild (heat rash or cramps), to severe (heat exhaustion), to life threatening (heat stroke).


Here are symptoms to recognize and first aid for the most severe heat-induced illnesses:

Heat Exhaustion Symptoms:

  • Weakness, dizziness, nausea
  • Pale or flushed appearance
  • Sweating, moist and clammy skin

First Aid for Heat Exhaustion:

  • Immediately move the victim to a cool place
  • Loosen clothing and place cool wet compresses on the skin
  • Have the victim slowly drink water or an electrolyte beverage
  • Elevate the feet 8 – 12 inches
  • Monitor for improvement.  If condition worsens, call 911

Heat Stroke Symptoms:

  • Dry, hot, reddish skin
  • Lack of sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Strong, rapid pulse
  • Chills
  • Confusion

First Aid for Heat Stroke:

  • Call 911 immediately!
  • Move the victim to a cool place while waiting for the ambulance
  • Cool the victim down as much as possible, using a hose or soaking clothes in water and fanning the body
  • Monitor breathing
  • Do not attempt to give fluids if the person is unconscious

The best course of action is prevention!  Water.  Rest.  Shade.  Include these prevention steps in worksite training for supervisors and employees, and make sure everyone is aware of the signs of heat illness.

Be especially observant of workers who are new on the job or have been away for more than a couple of days when the heat and humidity are high.

Don’t allow employees to “tough it out” to prove they are team players.  It could be deadly.

We’re your partner in workplace safety.  Call managestaff for assistance. We’ll help.

Don’t sweat it.

 Image: Stuart Miles/