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Heat Stress in the Workplace

Heat stress includes a series of conditions where the body is under stress from overheating. It can include:
  • heat rash
  • heat cramps
  • heat exhaustion,
  • heat stroke.

Each produces bodily symptoms that can range from profuse sweating to dizziness to cessation of sweating and collapse. Heat stress can be induced by high temperatures, heavy work loads, the type of clothing being worn, etc.

Review the signs of heat stress in the Heat Condition Table and the proper first aid to treat it. The victim often overlooks the signs of heat stress. The employee may at first be confused or unable to concentrate, followed by more severe symptoms such as fainting and/or collapse. If heat stress symptoms occur, move the employee to a cool, shaded area, give him/her water and immediately contact the supervisor.


At-risk Employees

Some employees are more likely to have heat disorders than others. Younger employees and those more physically fit are often less likely to have problems. Employees with heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes and those on medications are more likely to experience heat stress problems. Diet pills, sedatives, tranquilizers, caffeinated drinks and excessive alcohol consumption can all exacerbate heat stress effects.

It often takes two to three weeks for employees to become acclimated to a hot environment. This acclimation can subsequently be lost in only a few days away from the heat. Thus employees should be more cautious about heat stress after coming back from a vacation, when beginning a new job, or after the season’s first heat wave. In short, precautions should be taken anytime there are elevated temperatures (approaching 90 degrees F) and the job is physically demanding.

Other Factors

Other heat stress factors are also very important. In addition to temperature, increased relative humidity (see the Heat Index Chart), decreased air movement or lack of shading from direct heat (radiant temperature) will all affect the potential for heat stress.


Prevention of Heat Stress - Supervisors:

  • Allow time for employees to adjust to the summer heat. It often takes two to three weeks for an employee to become acclimated to a hot environment.
  • Adjust the work schedule, if possible. Assign heavier work on cooler days or during the cooler part of the day.
  • Reduce the workload. Increase the use of equipment on hot days to reduce physical labor. Also, reduce the use of equipment that produces excess heat.
  • Establish a schedule for work and rest periods during hot days.
  • Go over with employees how to recognize signs and symptoms of heat stress disorders and be prepared to give first aid if necessary.
  • Avoid placing "high risk" employees in hot work environments for extended time periods. Realize individual employees vary in their tolerance to heat stress conditions.

Prevention of Heat Stress - Workers:

  • Use the Heat Conditions Table to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress. Pace the work, taking adequate rest periods in shade or cooler environment.
  • Use adequate fans for ventilation and cooling, especially when wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) or working around equipment that is hot.
  • Wear light colored, loose (unless working around equipment with moving parts) clothing.
  • Keep shaded from direct heat where possible, for example, wear a hat and apply sunscreen.
  • Drink plenty of water. In hot environments the body requires more water than it takes to satisfy thirst. Drink BEFORE you are thirsty. Sports drinks are not necessary, plain water works well.

Heat Conditions

Condition
Signs/Symptoms
First Aid
Heat Cramps

Painful muscle spasms
Heavy sweating

Increase Water intake
Rest in shade/cool environment

Heat Syncope

Brief fainting
Blurred vision

Increase Water intake
Rest in shade/cool environment

Dehydration

Fatigue
Reduced movement

Increase Water intake
Rest in shade/cool environment

Heat Exhaustion

Pale and clammy skin
Possible fainting
Weakness, fatigue
Nausea
Dizziness
Heavy sweating
Blurred vision
Body temp slightly elevated

Lie down in cool environment
Water intake
Loosen clothing
Call University Police to summon ambulance if symptoms continue once in cool environment.

Heat Stroke

Cessation of sweating
Skin hot and dry
Red face
High body temperature
Unconsciousness
Collapse
Convulsions
Confusion or erratic behavior
Life threatening condition

Medical Emergency!
Call University Police to summon ambulance
Move Victim to shade, immerse in water


*Information from National Weather Service, USAF, Texas A&M University

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Extreme Danger:

Heat Stroke likely to occur when working under these conditions.   President (or designee) will issue Heat Stroke Alert requiring UT Tyler employees to be removed from such an environment.

Danger:   

Heat Exhaustion or Heat Cramps likely.  Heat Stroke may occur upon prolonged exertion.   Appropriate Vice-President will approve any employees who are requested to continue working in such an environment.

Extreme Caution:

Heat Cramps or Heat Exhaustion likely to occur.  Supervisors will implement adjusted schedules and procedures.

Caution: 

Heat Fatigue may occur.    Normal summer working conditions should be observed.

University of Texas at Tyler

Heat Related Work Policies

It shall be the policy of the University of Texas at Tyler to prevent heat-related disorders. Examples of heat-related disorders include: heatstroke, heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heat cramps.

The goal of a heat stress prevention program is to keep the deep body temperature below 100.4 degrees °F. Methods to prevent heat stress include:

a. Providing periodic rest breaks for the employee;
b. Schedule physically demanding activities for cooler parts of the day or year;
c. Provide frequent fluid intake;
d. Increase air velocity. This is only effective of the air temperature is below 95 degrees F.
e. Monitor humidity levels in work area and refer to Heat Stress Index Chart;
f. Use of mechanical aids to perform work instead of relying on physical effort;
g. Rotation of workers;
h. Allow for workers to acclimatize to the weather conditions;
i. Screening of workers to identify heat-tolerant individuals;
j. Shielding and insulation;
k. Training of supervisors and employees to identify heat stress symptoms and orientate them relative to prevention measures; and
l. Proper application of personal protective equipment.
Role
Responsible for
President and Vice-President(s)
Issuing Heat Stroke Alert as indicated in Heat Stress Index Chart as well as determining what activities can be preformed during a Danger period.
Departments
Ensuring employees who are working in hot environments take necessary precautions as outlined in the Heat Conditions Table
Supervisors
Annual training of employees who work in high heat areas. EH&S can assist in determining who needs to be included in this program. The supervisor is also responsible for monitoring signs and symptoms of heat stress in workers and ensuring the guidelines in this policy are followed when employees are working in high heat stress areas.
Employees
Attending training and following the instructions given. They are also responsible for monitoring themselves for signs and symptoms of heat stress as outlined in the Heat Conditions Table.


The University of Texas at Tyler
Environmental Health & Safety
3900 University Blvd.
Tyler, TX 75799
Phone: 1-800-UT TYLER
EH&S Number: (903) 566-7011

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