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Your Guide to Heat Relief

As temperatures soar, health risks for employees increase due to the heat. It’s estimated that more than 65,000 people visit the emergency room per year in the United States due to heat-related illnesses per year. How do we help make sure we prevent ourselves and our coworkers from being part of this statistic? One of the best ways is to just become educated – on what heat stress is, how to recognize it, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.


In this Blog Post:
What is heat stress?
How can you recognize heat-related illnesses?
How can you treat heat-related illnesses?
How can you prevent heat-related illnesses?

What is heat stress?

Heat stress is the effect of the heat load on a worker’s body. It causes the body to lose the ability to control its heat and can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. When a process or environment is likely to raise a worker’s deep core temperature, it raises the risk of heat stress. Many people think heat stress can only happen while working outside in the sun, and while this is very much a major cause of heat stress, it can also happen while working indoors. Any operations in places that involve high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, direct contact with hot objects, high humidity, or strenuous physical activities have a huge potential for increasing the risk of heat-stress for employees. Such operations include construction, hazardous waste site activities, electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms), rubber products factories, bakeries, mining sites, and more.


How can you recognize heat-related illnesses?

Heat Stress

Heat stress is one of the most common heat-related illnesses, but if it’s not treated, it can develop into something much more serious. Make sure to understand what the symptoms are, so if you or your coworker starts showing signs of heat stress, you can immediately get some help.


  • Impaired performance of skilled manual, mental, or vigilance jobs
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Body ache
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Labored breathing

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion responds easily to prompt treatment but should not be dismissed as it can lead to something much more serious such as heat stroke or heat collapse. Heat collapse is when your brain doesn’t receive enough oxygen because the blood pools in the extremities and as a result, you may lose consciousness.


  • Loss of body water and salt through excessive sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Muddled vision
  • Fatigue
  • Severe thirst
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Labored breathing
  • Palpitations
  • Tingling and numbness of hands and feet
  • Vertigo
  • Giddiness

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. This happens when the body’s temperature regulation fails, and the body temperature rises to critical levels which may result in death.


  • Irrational behavior
  • Body temperature greater than 105.8°F
  • Complete or partial unconsciousness
  • Confusion
  • Hot, dry skin
  • Lack of sweating (usually)
  • Seizures


How can you treat heat-related illnesses?

When someone shows signs of a heat-related illness, they should immediately get help. Even if it doesn’t seem serious at the time, it could easily develop into something much more serious if it’s not treated.

If someone starts showing symptoms of heat stress or heat exhaustion, they should immediately be removed from the hot environment, be given fluid replacements, and encouraged to take a break.

When workers show signs of possible heat stroke, call for medical help as soon as possible. While waiting for medical help, move the worker to a cooler area, and remove their outer clothing. Wet their skin and apply cold wet cloths to their body. It’s also recommended to increase air movement around the worker to improve evaporative cooling. The most important part is to try to reduce the worker’s body temperature as soon as possible, and then replace fluids.


How can you prevent heat-related illnesses?


  • Wear appropriate clothing, such as loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that allows for ventilation and sweat evaporation.
  • Use cooling PPE, such as cooling vests or bandages to help regulate body temperature.
  • Make sure to drink water frequently throughout the day, even if you are not feeling thirsty. Electrolyte drinks and popsicles can also help you stay hydrated as well as replace lost electrolytes.
  • Limit caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
  • Take frequent breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure when possible and use sunscreen when working in the sun to protect your skin.
  • Increase air circulation, if possible, with air conditioning, fans, and general ventilation.

Shop all Ritz Safety heat relief PPE and hydration solutions HERE


Employers can also implement a heat illness prevention program with some or all the following to help ensure everyone is aware of how to prevent heat stress.

  • Include a written plan that outlines procedures for preventing heat-related illnesses.
  • Provide training on signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, how to prevent them, and what to do if someone shows symptoms. Make sure to acknowledge the importance of staying hydrated and using correct PPE.
  • Provide access to water, rest, and shade and either encourage or schedule breaks for employees.
  • Gradually acclimatize new and returning workers by exposing them to the hot work environment for progressively longer periods of time or reducing physical demands until acclimatized.
  • Monitor workers for symptoms and encourage workers to report their symptoms.
  • Set up a buddy system so no one is working alone in extreme heat conditions.


Learn more from OSHA HERE

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