National News Release: USDL: 99-212
Tuesday, August 3, 1999
CONTACT: Jo Anne Burgoyne
PHONE: (202) 693-1999
OSHA Cautions Employers and Employees: Be Aware of Heat Stress Symptoms
With the nation experiencing a long, hot summer, people who work in hot environments need to be aware of potentially life-threatening disorders caused by the heat. Heat disorders range from mild rashes, dizziness and heat cramps to more serious problems such as fainting and loss of consciousness, which are symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
"Don't think you can outsmart the heat," Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman said. "Heat stress can kill. This is a time to realize how dangerous the heat can be and do all that you can to stay cool. So take a break and drink plenty of water."
"Some simple adjustments during these hot summer months can prevent needless tragedy," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Charles N. Jeffress. "The risk of heat-related illnesses can be reduced by drinking plenty of water, taking frequent rest breaks, wearing appropriate clothing and having access to shaded, well ventilated areas."
One person may be more susceptible to heat stress than another, so it is important to know the symptoms and to take prompt action when they occur. OSHA's pamphlet, "Protecting Workers in Hot Environments" and its "Heat Stress Card" have detailed information about recognizing, evaluating and controlling heat stress. Both are available on the agency's web page at www.osha.gov.
OSHA offers these 10 tips for workers and employers:
1. Drink cool water. Anyone working in a hot environment should drink cool water in small amounts frequently -- one cup every 20 minutes. Employers should make water available. Avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks, which cause dehydration.
2. Dress appropriately. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and change clothing if it gets completely saturated. Use sunscreen and wear a hat when working outdoors. Avoid getting sunburn.
3. Work in ventilated areas. All workplaces should have good general ventilation as well as spot cooling in work areas of high heat production. Good air flow increases evaporation of sweat which cools the skin.
4. Work less, rest more. Supervisors should assign a lighter workload and longer rest periods during days of intense heat. Short, frequent work-rest cycles are best. Alternate work and rest periods with longer rest periods in a cooler area, and schedule heavy work for cooler parts of the day.
5. Ask how workers are feeling. Supervisors should monitor workplace temperature and humidity and check workers' responses to heat at least hourly. Allow a large margin of safety for workers. Be alert to early signs of heat-related illness and allow workers to stop their work for a rest break if they become extremely uncomfortable.
6. Know the signs and take prompt action. Employees and employers should learn to spot the signs of heat stroke, which can be fatal. Get emergency medical attention immediately if someone has one or more of the following symptoms: mental confusion or loss of consciousness, flushed face, hot, dry skin or has stopped sweating.
7. Train first-aid workers. First aid workers should be able to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress. First aid workers should also be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat cramps and other heat-related illness. Be sure that all workers know who is trained to give first aid.
8. Reduce work for anyone at risk. Employers should use common sense when determining fitness for work in hot environments. Lack of acclimatization, age, obesity, poor conditioning, pregnancy, inadequate rest, previous heat injuries, certain medical conditions and medications are some factors that increase susceptibility to heat stress.
9. Check with your doctor. Certain medical conditions, such as heart conditions and diabetes, and some medications can increase the risk of injury from heat exposure. Employees with medical conditions or taking medications should ask their doctors before working in hot environments.
10. Watch out for other hazards. Use common sense and monitor other environmental hazards that often accompany hot weather, such as smog and ozone.
The pamphlet "Protecting Workers in Hot Environments" and a "Heat Stress Card" are available by calling OSHA Publications, (202) 693-1888, your local area OSHA office or visiting the OSHA web site, www.osha.gov, and clicking on "Subject Index", then "Heat Stress" for the pamphlet; or, from the home page click on "News Room," then "Publications" for the card.
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This news release text is on the Internet World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov. Information on this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone (202) 693-1999.