Heat Stress Prevention

This page covers the following topics:

  • Overview
  • Determining Unsafe Working Conditions
  • Jobs that Expose Workers to Heat
  • Prevention Techniques
  • Additional Information

Overview

When a person works in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. It does this mainly through circulating blood to the skin and through sweating. When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. Blood circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Sweating then becomes the main way the body cools off. But sweating is effective only if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation, and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replaced.

If the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will store that excess heat. When this happens, symptoms of heat illness start to develop. The body's core temperature rises and the heart rate increases. As the body continues to store heat, a person begins to lose concentration and has difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and often loses the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

Excessive workplace exposure to heat can cause a range of heat-related illnesses, from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.


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