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Safety Talk: Heat Stress - Toolbox Safety Cards
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Reason for the Talk

Each year thousands of workers are affected by heat illness.


When the human body is unable to maintain a normal temperature, heat-related illnesses can occur, and in severe circumstances, they may result in death. These illnesses include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

Factors leading to heat-related illness:

  • High temperature and humidity
  • Low fluid consumption
  • Direct sun exposure (with no shade) or extreme heat
  • Limited air movement (no breeze or wind)
  • Use of bulky protective clothing and equipment
  • Poor physical condition or ongoing health problems


To prevent heat-related illnesses, your employer should provide training about the hazards leading to heat illnesses and how to prevent them. Provide the appropriate amount of cool water to workers close to the work area (at least one pint of water per hour is needed). Schedule frequent rest periods with water breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas. Routinely check workers who are at risk of heat-related illnesses and consider protective clothing that provides cooling.

Prevention Steps

1. Adjust to the heated environment slowly.

  • If you know that you will be working in hot environments, try to get used to the heat gradually, by increasing exposure over a 5-day work period.
  • Begin with 50% of the normal workload and 50% time spent in the hot environment.
  • Gradually build up your exposure to 100%. (It’s less stressful to your body.)
  • If you are a new worker or returning from an extended absence of two weeks or more you should have a 5-day adjustment period.

2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

  • Start hydrating the day before to beat dehydration in its earliest forms.
  • Make sure you know how much to drink. General guidelines suggest that you drink six to eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes when exerting yourself in the heat.
  • Do not just drink when you are thirsty. Thirst is an indication that you are already in a state of dehydration. Also, your thirst is quenched quickly, so keep drinking more water to stay hydrated.
  • For short-durations (less than 60 minutes), and low-to-moderate-intensity, water is a good choice to drink before, during, and after. Drink cool water (instead of iced) to hydrate quickly, it absorbs in the bloodstream faster.
  • For longer durations of more than one hour, supplement water with sports drinks that contain electrolytes and a maximum of 6 to 8 percent carbohydrates. (Drinks with a higher carbohydrate count are harder for the bloodstream to absorb and should be avoided when you are at risk for dehydration.)

3. Watch out for these stages of Hyperthermia

Hyperthermia occurs when the body’s temperature rises above normal:

  • Phase 1: Heat cramp– a severe muscle spasm that often begins in the hands, calves, or feet. These tend to be painful. The muscle becomes tense and hard and difficult to relax.
  • Phase 2: Heat Exhaustion– increased fatigue, weakness, anxiety, drenching sweats, and sometimes collapse.
  • Phase 3: Heat stroke– a medical emergency and life-threatening condition. This occurs when the body temperature rises between 104°F and 106°F. Side effects include: dizziness, weakness, emotional instability, nausea/vomiting, confusion, delirium, blurred vision, convulsions, collapse, and unconsciousness.

Self-awareness and thoughtful scheduling is the best way to prevent heat-related illnesses, but sometimes the situation calls for first aid to get a person cooled down before serious injury or illness occurs.

Discussion Q.A.

What are the first signs of Hyperthermia?

How can you remember to stay hydrated?

Main point of the session

Stay hydrated.

OSHA Resources

Heat Protection: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/trainingresources.html

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