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Heat Safety

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Working in a hot environment puts stress on the body's cooling system. When heat is combined with other stresses-like hard physical work, loss of fluids, humidity and fatigue-it may lead to heat-related illness, disability, or even death!

Water is crucial to helping the body adjust to high temperatures. The rate of water intake must equal the increased rate of water loss by perspiration to keep body temperature normal. When it's hot, drink plenty of water!

Heat stress hazards

The following are three common conditions that can result from the body overheating:

Heat cramps: Heavy sweating drains the body of salt, which cannot be replaced by simply drinking water. Painful cramps occur in the arms, legs, or stomach while on the job, or later at home. Move to a cool area at once if cramping is experienced. Loosen clothing and drink cool, lightly-salted water or a commercial fluid replacement beverage. Seek medical aid if the cramps are severe, or don't go away.

Heat exhaustion: Inadequate water and salt intake causes the body's cooling system to break down. Symptoms include heavy sweating, cool, moist skin, body temperature over 38 degrees, weak pulse, and normal or low blood pressure. The victim is likely to be tired, weak, clumsy, upset, or confused. They will be very thirsty, and will pant or breathe rapidly. Their vision may be blurred. Get medical help immediately! Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. Move the person to a cool, shaded area. Loosen or remove excess clothing. Provide cool, lightly-salted water. Fan and spray the victim with cool water.

Heat stroke: Heat stroke can kill a person quickly! Once the body uses up all its water and salt, sweating ceases. Temperature can rise quickly. The following are symptoms of heat stroke:

  • weakness, confusion, distress, strange behavior;
  • hot, dry, red skin;
  • rapid pulse;
  • headache or dizziness;
  • In later stages of heat stroke, a victim may pass out and have convulsions.

Seek medical attention immediately if heat stroke is suspected. Until help arrives, move the victim to a cool area and remove excess clothing. Fan and spray them with cool water. Offer sips of water if the victim is conscious.

Heatwave guidelines

The following measures should help prevent the development of heat-related illnesses:

  1. Slow down in hot weather. Your body's temperature regulating system faces a much greater workload when temperature and humidity are high.
  2. Heed early warnings of heat stress, such as headache, heavy perspiration, high pulse rate, and shallow breathing. Take a break immediately and get to a cooler location. Watch for heat stress signs among your co-workers.
  3. Dress for hot weather. Lightweight, light-colored clothing reflects heat.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Don't let yourself "dry out".
  5. Increase your salt intake, preferably by adding salt to your food. (Consult your physician if you are on a salt-restricted diet.)
  6. Try to get used to warm weather gradually. Take it easy for those first two or three hot days. Your body will have a better chance to adjust if you take it slow.
  7. Get out of the heat occasionally. Physical stress increases with time in hot weather. Take breaks in a cool, shady location.
  8. Wear a hat and long-sleeved shirt to prevent burning (which we know can increase the risk of skin cancer.)


  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take breaks in a cool, shady area.
  • Watch for symptoms of a heat stress, both in yourself and co-workers.


  • Ignore symptoms of heat stress.
  • Try to get a suntan while working.
  • Try to "keep up" with the rest of the crew, even though you feel ill.

Kentucky Employers' Mutual Insurance

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only and is not in any way intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a physician or health care professional. KEMI makes no recommendation or endorsement with regard to any medication or safety or medical procedure and does not assume liability for the content of this information. Do not rely on this information as a substitute for seeking professional medical advice. Do not disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained herein. KEMI does not assume liability for the content of this information. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business. Safety and health remain your responsibility.

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