Surviving the Summer Heat: Tips to Beat Heat Stress

Surviving the Summer Heat: Tips to Beat Heat Stress

The scorching summer season is upon us once again, and it's crucial to keep heat stress at bay, ensuring the well-being of workers both outdoors and indoors. 

Understanding Heat Stress

Before we delve into preventive measures, let's understand what heat stress entails. Heat stress occurs when the body is unable to cool itself through sweating, leading to a range of heat-related issues. These include heat rashes, cramps, exhaustion, and the most severe and perilous heat stroke. 

Training Materials for Heat Stress

To effectively train your workers on heat stress, we have compiled a comprehensive list of resources for you to utilize: 

Heat-Related Illnesses, Symptoms, and First Aid

Recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses and providing appropriate first aid is vital. Here's a breakdown of common heat-related illnesses, their symptoms, and recommended initial measures, sourced from an OSHA Safety and Health Topics webpage: 

Heat Stroke  

Symptoms include: 

  • Confusion 
  • Fainting 
  • Seizures 
  • Excessive sweating or red, hot, dry skin 
  • Very high body temperature 

Appropriate first aid: 

  • Immediately call 911. 
  • Move the affected person to a shaded and cool area. 
  • Loosen their clothing and remove outer layers. 
  • Provide a fan or use cold packs in their armpits. 
  • Wet their body with cool water or apply ice packs and cool compresses. 
  • Offer fluids, preferably water, as soon as possible. 
  • Stay with the individual until medical help arrives. 

Heat Exhaustion  

Symptoms include: 

  • Cool, moist skin 
  • Heavy sweating 
  • Headache 
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Weakness 
  • Thirst 
  • Irritability 
  • Fast heartbeat 

Appropriate first aid is to: 

  • Have the worker sit or lie down in a cool, shady area 
  • Give the worker plenty of water or other cool beverages to drink 
  • Cool worker with cold compresses/ice packs 
  • Take the worker to a clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation or treatment if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes. 
  • Do not have the worker return to work that day 

Heat Cramps 

Symptoms include: 

  • Muscle spasms 
  • Pain 
  • Usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs 

 Appropriate first aid is to: 

  • Have the worker rest in a shady, cool area 
  • The worker should drink water or other cool beverages 
  • Wait a few hours before allowing the worker to return to strenuous work 
  • Have the worker seek medical attention if cramps don't go away 

Heat rash 

Symptoms include: 

  • Clusters of red bumps on the skin 
  • Often appears on the neck, upper chest, folds of skin 

Appropriate first aid is to: 

  • Try to work in a cooler, less humid environment when possible 
  • Keep the affected area dry 

Heat Stress and the Hierarchy of Controls

The tried-and-tested hierarchy of controls can effectively safeguard workers against heat stress and heat-related illnesses. If you're unfamiliar with this concept, you can learn more about it here. Otherwise, read on to understand how to apply it to combat heat stress (source): 

Heat Stress and Engineering Controls 

Engineering controls are the most effective preventive measures. Consider the following options to create a cooler working environment: 

  • Implement air conditioning. 
  • Ensure general ventilation. 
  • Install fans. 
  • Deploy local exhaust ventilation near areas with high heat levels. 
  • Use reflective shields to redirect radiant heat. 
  • Insulate hot surfaces, particularly those near furnaces or boilers. 
  • Repair steam leaks. 

Heat Stress and Work Practices 

When engineering controls are unfeasible or insufficient, resort to work practices, also known as administrative controls. Here are some recommendations:  

  • Establish an emergency plan that outlines the necessary actions if a worker displays signs of heat-related illness, including access to medical services. 
  • Facilitate worker acclimatization, gradually increasing exposure to heat, especially for newcomers or those returning after a week-long absence. During the first week, gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks. 
  • Provide an ample supply of safe drinking water near the work area, encourage regular consumption, and educate workers about drinking small quantities frequently. 
  • Schedule work shifts to expose workers to heat for shorter, more frequent periods rather than longer, continuous stretches (refer to work/rest schedules for guidance). 
  • Minimize physically demanding tasks during hot weather or schedule them for cooler times of the day. 
  • Implement job rotation to limit the total heat exposure of individual workers. 
  • Conduct comprehensive training sessions to educate workers about heat-related illness symptoms, instruct them to look out for one another, and train them in appropriate first aid measures. 
  • In certain situations, employers may need to conduct physiological monitoring of workers (see Monitoring Workers at Risk of Heat-related Illness). 

Heat Stress and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

Ensure workers are aware that certain types of personal protective equipment, such as specific respirators and impermeable clothing, can increase the risk of heat-related illness. In these cases, workers should exercise additional caution and take extra safety measures to stay cool.  


  • In workplaces with extreme heat conditions, consider utilizing insulated gloves, insulated suits, reflective clothing, or infrared-reflecting face shields. 
  • For extremely hot conditions, explore the use of thermally conditioned clothing options, such as garments with self-contained air conditioners or compressed air sources that supply cool air through vortex tubes. Alternatively, garments with pockets for dry ice or containers of ice can be employed. 

Heat Stress and Training 

It is crucial to provide comprehensive training on heat stress and heat-related illnesses. The training should cover the following topics: 

  • Risk factors associated with heat-related illnesses. 
  • Different types of heat-related illnesses. 
  • Recognition of common signs and symptoms. 
  • Preventive measures for heat-related illnesses. 
  • The importance of drinking small quantities of water frequently. 
  • The significance of acclimatization and how it occurs in the workplace. 
  • The necessity of promptly reporting signs or symptoms of heat-related illness to supervisors. 
  • Procedures for responding to potential heat-related illnesses. 
  • Procedures to follow when contacting emergency medical services. 
  • Ensuring clear and precise directions to the work site are provided to emergency medical services. 

Industry-Specific Resources for Heat Stress and Heat-Related Illnesses

For specific industries, OSHA provides a wealth of resources on heat stress. You can explore these resources here. 

Heat Stress, The General Duty Clause, and Related Standards

Several standards address heat stress in the workplace. To view a list of these standards, click here. 

Heat Stress Online Training Course from Vector Solutions

Here's an excerpt from the Heat Stress Causes course offered by Vector Solutions. To include the Heat Stress Causes course in your training library, click here to contact Vector Solutions. 

Or, you can check out other titles available in our Health and Safety training libraries. 

Lastly, if you've ever wondered about the hottest spots in the US, your curiosity ends here, check it out! 

Want to Know More?

Reach out and a Vector Solutions representative will respond back to help answer any questions you might have.