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8 Steps to Keep Workers Safe in the Heat

Read this article in Spanish. Lee este artículo en español.

Keep workers safe in hot weather with water, rest and shade.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2016 and we're highlighting it again in 2017.

Forecasters are calling for above-average temperatures across much of the country this summer. Are you prepared to beat the heat? Every year, thousands of workers become ill from working in the heat, and some even die. Construction workers make up about one-third of heat-related worker deaths, but outdoor workers in every industry – particularly agriculture, landscaping, transportation, and oil and gas operations − are at risk when temperatures go up. Heat-related illnesses and deaths can be prevented. Employers and supervisors can save the lives of workers in hot environments by following these eight simple steps:

  1. Institute a heat acclimatization plan and medical monitoring program. Closely supervise new employees for the first 14 days or until they are fully acclimatized. Most heat-related worker deaths occur in the first 3 days on the job and more than a third occur on the very first day. New and temporary workers are disproportionately affected. If someone has not worked in hot weather for at least a week, their body needs time to adjust.
  2. Encourage workers to drink about 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes. During prolonged sweating lasting several hours, they should drink sports beverages containing balanced electrolytes.
  3. Provide shaded or air-conditioned rest areas for cooling down, and empower workers to use them.
  4. Provide workers with protective equipment and clothing (such as water-cooled garments, air-cooled garments, hats, ice-packet vests, wetted over-garments, and heat-reflective aprons or suits).
  5. Be familiar with heat illness signs and symptoms, and make sure your employees are, too. Some heat exhaustion signs are dizziness, headaches, cramps, sweaty skin, nausea and vomiting, weakness and a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke symptoms include red, hot, dry skin; convulsions; fainting; and confusion. In general, fainting and confusion represent an emergency and should trigger the call for professional evaluation.
  6. Encourage workers to recognize heat illness symptoms and notify a supervisor or medical professional if they or other coworkers are showing signs. Implement a buddy system where workers observe each other for early signs and symptoms of heat intolerance.
  7. Download OSHA’s Heat Safety Tool on your iPhone or Android device to help calculate the heat index, a measurement of how it feels when considering humidity. The app provides specific recommendations for preventing heat illness based on the estimated risk level where you are working.
  8. Know what to do in an emergency. Employees should call a supervisor for help. If a supervisor is not available, call 911. Have someone stay with the worker until help arrives.

More resources are available on OSHA’s website in English and Spanish. Remember: “Water. Rest. Shade.” can prevent heat illness and save lives. 

Mandy Edens is the director of OSHA’s Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management. Follow OSHA on Twitter as @OSHA_DOL. 


8 Pasos para Proteger a Trabajadores de Peligros del Calor


Los meteorólogos dicen que este verano las temperaturas en gran parte del país serán superiores a las normales. ¿Estás preparado para combatir el calor? Cada año, miles de trabajadores se enferman por trabajar bajo altas temperaturas; y algunos hasta mueren. Los trabajadores de la construcción constituyen aproximadamente un tercio de las muertes de trabajadores relacionadas con el calor, pero los trabajadores al aire libre en cada industria – especialmente en la agricultura, jardinería, transporte y en operaciones de petróleo y gas - están en riesgo cuando suben las temperaturas. Las enfermedades y muertes relacionadas con el calor se pueden prevenir. Los empleadores y supervisores pueden salvar las vidas de trabajadores en ambientes calurosos siguiendo estos ocho pasos sencillos:

1 - Establece un plan de aclimatación al calor y un programa de monitoreo médico. Supervisa de cerca a los nuevos empleados en los primeros 14 días o hasta que estén completamente aclimatados. La mayoría de las muertes de trabajadores relacionadas con el calor ocurren en los tres primeros días en el trabajo, y más de un tercio en el primer día. Los trabajadores nuevos y temporales se afectan desproporcionadamente. Si no se ha trabajado bajo condiciones de clima caliente durante al menos una semana, los cuerpos necesitan tiempo para adaptarse.

2 - Aconseja a los trabajadores que beban aproximadamente una taza de agua cada 15-20 minutos. Durante una sudoración que se prolongue durante varias horas, deben consumir bebidas deportivas que contengan electrolitos balanceados.

3 - Facilita áreas de descanso con sombra o aire acondicionado para dar un respiro, y asegúrate que los trabajadores las usen.

4 - Da a los trabajadores equipos y vestimenta de protección (ropa refrescada  y vaporosa, sombreros, chalecos con paquetes de hielo, chalecos humedecidos, y delantales o trajes reflectivos).

5 - Familiarízate con los signos y síntomas de las enfermedades por calor, y asegúrate que tus empleados también lo estén. Algunos indicativos de agotamiento por calor son mareos, dolores de cabeza, calambres, piel sudorosa, náuseas y vómitos, debilidad, y pulso acelerado. Los síntomas de la insolación incluyen piel roja, caliente y seca, convulsiones; desmayo; y la confusión. En general, el desmayo y la confusión constituyen una emergencia y deben dar lugar a una llamada para un chequeo profesional.

6 – Alienta a los trabajadores a reconocer los síntomas de la enfermedad por calor y a notificar a un supervisor o profesional médico si ven que otros compañeros están mostrando signos. Implementar un sistema donde los trabajadores se observen entre sí para estar pendientes de los primeros signos y síntomas de efectos adversos al calor.

7 – Descarga la Herramienta de Seguridad por Calor de OSHA en su dispositivo iPhone o Android para poder calcular el índice de calor, una medida de lo que se siente cuando se considera la humedad. La aplicación proporciona recomendaciones específicas para prevenir enfermedades por el calor en función del nivel de riesgo estimado en el lugar de trabajo.

8 - Conoce qué hacer en caso de emergencia. Los empleados deben llamar a un supervisor para pedir ayuda. Si un supervisor no está disponible, llama al 911, y que alguien se quede con el trabajador hasta que llegue la ayuda.

En el sitio web de OSHA hay más recursos disponibles en inglés y español. Recuerda: “Agua. Descanso. Sombra” pueden prevenir enfermedades por el calor y salvar vidas.

Mandy Edens es la directora de la Dirección de Apoyo Técnico y Gestión de Emergencias de OSHA. Siga el departamento a Twitter @USDOL_Latino y Facebook @USDOLLatino.


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If heat illness prevention is so important, why hasn't Federal OSHA promulgated a regulation about it, like Cal/OSHA did TEN YEARS AGO? And if heat illness prevention is so important, why doesn't Federal OSHA develop more of its own heat illness prevention documents, instead of poaching off of Cal/OSHA's documents?

muchas companies exponen los trabajadores al calor no quieren gastar en poner aire acondicionado,no les importaque muchos empleados tienen problemass medicos como la alta presion asma etc. la ley no los obliga a mejorar hasta cuando alguien se muere.,enforce the law en everything..

gracias por lsa informpcion es bueno saber todo esto

OSHA works GREAT....for SOME things! But in a lot of instances where they could have an impact, they fail by taking the path of least resistance.

While working as a Security Guard, the account where weDai worked removed the outer set of double doors leading to the Lobby where I sat. The heating vents had stopped working years earlier, and during the multi-million dollar refurbishment that included removal of the outside set of doors, the construction crew often commented on the disrepair of the lobby heating system. Once repairs were completed, the crew announced that there had been no provision for repairs to the heating system.

The cold of Winter (2011-2012 - I'd have to find some old notes for the exact date) was bitter. Once the door to the lobby opened, my desk might as well have been sitting outside on the sidewalk. The desks, chairs - even the ink pen were frosted from the cold. Against the client's wishes, I'd often let customers pass thru the turnstiles to wait for their host in one of the conference rooms that were far better protected from the cold, Lobby blasts.

Raising my concerns to the client and my employer were met with idiotic statements like: "it's an adjustment - you'll get used to it," and "space heaters are against regulations."

In desperation, I called OSHA. Their response? "We can't force an employer to provide a comfortable environment; we have nothing to do with that." But OSHA's website states: ...."under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards...."

I'd gotten swift corrective action from OSHA many (m-a-n-y) years earlier, when I called to report an employer that had employees storing their lunches in a broken refrigerator (the kind stores keep soft drinks in). You were met by the stench of rotting food and the smell of garbage, any time you went into the corridor between the break-room and the Call Center. I tracked the major source of the horrible smell down to the broken refrigerator unit (the until was barely cool inside, and molded, spilled food and drink that had never been cleaned was bubbling in the corners of the bottom shelf). The stench from opening the refrigerator doors was nauseating, and exacerbated by the smell of garbage in the bottom of break-room trash bins that were never cleaned when the trash bags were replaced.

After my third request to the employer for an investigation into the refrigerator and the garbage bins was met with a sarcastic remark, I called OSHA. The refrigerator was repaired and the garbage bins cleaned THAT day, and the employer asked me to come and inspect the break-room to see if he'd "omitted" anything. (FYI - OSHA did not reveal my name; I introduced myself to the employer when he came storming onto the Call Center floor demanding to know who had called OSHA). I owned the call, because I had nothing to fear nor hide. I later called OSHA back and thanked them for their assistance and from that day until the day I left, things at the Call Center remained clean, and pleasant.

In the case of the freezing Lobby, my request for OSHA assistance was beyond disappointing, and OSHA needs to either step up their game, or change the wording on their website to reflect the truth, rather than misleading legalese.

The heat is awful doing the summer they have to big fans that do kmow good we bring our ice to work. They have only one cooler wit ice in it we all have to stand in line to get a drink of water.

Best to work safe