What is a Heat Illness Prevention Plan?
When working in a warm environment, our bodies rely on their ability to get rid of excess heat to maintain a healthy internal body temperature through methods such as sweating to cool down. Factors such as high temperature and humidity, low fluid consumption, direct sun exposure, lack of shade, and physical exertion can result in heat illness. A Heat Illness Prevention Plan can help provide workers with the information, procedures, and training necessary to protect them from heat-related exposures and illnesses. OSHA requires an employer who has employees working outdoors in hot temperatures to implement a Heat Illness Prevention Plan to protect the health of their employees.
What are the Symptoms of Heat Illness?
If you are exposed to high temperatures
- Muscle cramps
- Flushed, moist skin
- Pale, moist skin
- Warm, dry skin
- Fever over 100.4°F (or 38°C)
- Severe tiredness (fatigue)
- Passing out (fainting)
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Seizures, coma, and death are possible
Employees who are experiencing any of the following symptoms will need to take a recovery break to a shaded area to rest. Do not continue to participate in the activity.
What are the different types of Heat Illness?
There are 3 different types of heat illnesses: heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
- Heat cramps are muscle pains usually caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating.
- Heat Exhaustion is more severe than heat cramps. It is caused by a loss of water and salt in the body. It occurs in conditions of extreme heat and excessive sweating without adequate fluid and salt replacement. Heat exhaustion happens when the body can’t cool itself correctly. If left untreated, it can progress to heatstroke.
- Heat Stroke Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat illness. It occurs when the body’s heat-regulating system is overwhelmed by excessive heat. The skin may be dry if the ability to sweat has been lost. It is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical care.
What safety steps can employees take to prevent Heat Illness?
For the safety of your employees, employees should take frequent recovery breaks to seek water, shade, and rest. Managers should be aware of symptoms of Heat Illness so they can recognize symptoms in employees and send them on a break before symptoms get worse. Provide your employees with information and training on Heat Illness to lower the risk of Heat Illness in the workplace.