Heat illness prevention

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Summer is here, and the warmer weather requires employers to monitor potential heat-related illnesses among their employees. Even if your employees are not out working in the sun all day, whenever they are working outside or exposed to hot temperatures—for instance in a service shop or on a sales lot—they could fall prey to heat-related illness. California has regulations that govern heat exposure, and a temperature of 80°F triggers the requirements for California’s Heat Illness Prevention Standard.

Symptoms of heat-related illness include fatigue, heavy sweating, nausea, dizziness, confusion, or headache. Severe heat illness includes decreased levels of consciousness, staggering, disorientation, vomiting, incoherent speech, irrational behavior, convulsions, a red and hot face. Heat-related illness can lead to workplace injuries, including falls, accidents, or other on-the-job mishaps.

Therefore, some general rules to follow include the following:

  • Train employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  • Provide fresh, pure and suitably cool water readily available for employees (at no charge).
  • Ensure access to shade at all times for recovery or rest breaks.
  • Allow for Cool-Down Rest Periods for a minimum of 5 minutes, as needed. These cool-down periods are counted as hours worked, so employees are not required to clock-out during these periods.
  • No supervisor is allowed to instruct an employee to skip a cool-down period.
  • Ensure effective communication between employer and employees.
  • Observe employees for alertness and signs of heat illness during heat waves, especially employees newly assigned to a heat-exposed area.

There should be a supervisor available to evaluate employees for heat illness to determine if the above measures will alleviate the symptoms, or if emergency service providers will be needed. A sick employee should not be left alone in the shade or on a rest break, as heat illness can progress rapidly.

These precautions should help to avoid work-place injuries, so let’s work to beat the heat!