Beating the heat: How to avoid heat-related illness

Updated Jun 30, 2021
Preventing Sunburn – Total Landscape Care magazine


Cintas Corporation has introduced top tips for limiting heat stress in the workplace.

When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, heat stress can occur. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), five to 10 million workers are exposed to heat-related illnesses each year.

1. Understand heat stress

There are three main types of heat stress: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Heat cramps are painful spasms. Heat exhaustion is a state of weakness, fatigue and dizziness. Heatstroke, the most severe, is a condition resulting in highly elevated body temperature. All are intensified by high temperature and humidity, direct sun or heat, limited air movement, physical exertion, poor physical health and more.

2. Dress properly

Wearing a hat outdoors and lightweight, light-colored and loose clothing is important when temperatures are high. Look for personal protective equipment (PPE) that has moisture-wicking properties and does not cling or feel heavy.

3. Drink fluids frequently

Feeling thirsty is a sign of dehydration, so you should continually drink fluids to avoid this condition. One quart of cool water per hour and no more than three gallons per day is recommended for workers dealing with extreme heat. Beverages with electrolytes are another great option for replenishing the body with minerals. Avoid sodas, energy drinks and alcohol.

4. Remember to rest

It is especially important to take additional breaks when temperatures are high. Rest in a cool, shaded area and focus on drinking more liquids during your break.

5. Eat right

Limiting the intake of large, hot meals will keep you feeling your best in the heat. However, try not to skip meals, since the main way the body recovers electrolytes lost through perspiration is from food.

6. Assess your environment

Evaluating your work environment can help you recognize potential problems and correct them. Take note of the weather in which you work, the amount of physical labor you engage in, the length of your workday, the clothing you are wearing and any medical conditions that can be aggravated by heat.

7. Watch for signs of heat stress

Act like a buddy to co-workers by encouraging proper hot weather prevention techniques and watching for signs of heat stress. Heat cramps result in abnormal body posture and cause a person to grasp the affected area. Heat exhaustion causes extreme sweating, paleness in the face, unsteady walking and moist skin. Heatstroke is noted by mental confusion, convulsions, fainting and dry skin.

8. Know emergency response

When heat stress occurs, first determine its extent by asking the person their name, the date and where they are. If they are unsure, they are likely in heat stroke and you should call 911 immediately. Then, move the worker to a cooler area, loosen heavy clothing, provide drinking water and fan or mist them with water. If the individual is not disoriented, they are likely suffering from heat exhaustion and the same steps should be repeated.

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