Learn the signs of heat exhaustion, take precautions
Salem, OR — Attention employers and workers: Don’t let a couple of gray, showery days in Oregon fool you. Hot weather is on the way next week, and the official arrival of summer looms. That’s why Oregon OSHA urges employers to prevent heat illness for workers by providing water, rest, and shade, gradually adapting workers to hot environments, and training employees to recognize the signs of heat illness and to raise concerns immediately.
“Workers in Oregon tend to be used to working in mild weather and are frequently not accustomed to high temperatures,” said Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for Oregon OSHA. “That’s why it’s especially important for employers to put appropriate measures in place to guard against the potential impacts of on-the-job heat stress.”
Exposure to heat can lead to headaches, cramps, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, and even seizures or death. From 2012 to 2018, a total of 42 people received benefits through Oregon’s workers’ compensation system for heat-related illnesses. Oregon OSHA encourages employers and workers in especially labor-intensive industries, including construction and agriculture, to work together to prevent heat-related illness.
The call to address the hazards of working in high heat is part of an emphasis program run by Oregon OSHA. Under the program, the agency’s enforcement and consultation activities will include a review of employers’ plans to deal with heat exposure, especially from June 15 through Oct. 1 of each year.
The prevention program applies to both outdoor job sites and indoor workplaces where potential heat-related hazards may exist. Oregon OSHA urges employers to fill out a heat illness prevention plan. The plan outlines everything from risk factors and precautionary steps to locations of water and cooling areas.
Employers can get a sample heat illness prevention plan.
Here are some tips for preventing heat-related illnesses:
- Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
- Use the buddy system (work in pairs) to monitor the heat.
- Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15 to 20 minutes).
- Wear light, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing (such as cotton).
- Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas – allow your body to cool down.
- Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
- Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).
To help those suffering from heat exhaustion:
- Move them to a cool, shaded area. Do not leave them alone.
- Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
- Provide cool water to drink (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
- Try to cool them by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
- If they do not feel better in a few minutes, call 911 for emergency help.
Employers can calculate the heat index for their worksite with the federal OSHA heat stress app for mobile phones.
Oregon OSHA also offers heat stress prevention videos in English and Spanish.
Get more information about heat stress and prevention of heat-related illnesses.