Why Heat Awareness is Essential for Occupational Safety Managers

Heat-related deaths are reaching new heights in the U.S., in part due to rising temperatures. Intense heat exposure also threatens workers, but they have more to contend with than environmental heat. Exertion-related heat should be considered, as well as heavy work clothing.

For occupational safety managers, these factors must be accounted for, as they can add up to serious heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

When Temperatures Rise, Heat Awareness Should As Well

Many work settings can be characterized as a thermal energy-rich environment. Construction sites, manufacturing facilities, outdoor warehouses and quarries are just a few examples of such worksites, but excess heat exposure can occur anywhere – even in office buildings.

Wherever heat hazards do emerge, heat illnesses are sure to follow if safety managers don’t take the proper precautions. These illnesses can manifest in one of several forms – heat rash is an example. For safety managers, though, the principal concerns are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion and stroke share many of the same symptoms, including mental symptoms such as confusion, altered mood, slurred speech, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. Both heat illnesses require immediate intervention, but heat stroke is a medical emergency that can leave workers permanently, perhaps fatally injured.

Heat Stress is Dangerous for Workers and Costly for Companies

Dozens of workers are killed by excess occupational heat every year, and thousands more are injured. The human cost of lax heat safety measures is severe, even when taking fatalities out of the equation.

Heat-related injuries can leave workers unable to recapture their prior productivity. According to the World Health Organization, about 2 percent of all working hours every year are lost due to heat stress – a huge bite that makes heat one of the country’s biggest productivity sieves.

For employers, protecting worker health is of paramount importance. What’s also important is ensuring production benchmarks are hit. Heat hazards can get in the way of that, but occupational safety managers can mitigate heat dangers if they maintain awareness of heat hazards and implement safety measures to mitigate them.

How Occupational Safety Managers Can Protect Employees from Heat-related Injury

Heat is dangerous, in part, because it is insidious. It slowly increases in intensity until it’s enough to overtake workers. The only way to protect against this subtle, creeping danger is with vigilance. If everyone at the worksite, including safety managers, are committed to spotting and mitigating heat risks, then it will be easier to protect employees – and easier to respond to a heat emergency if one does arise.

Occupational safety managers are largely responsible for establishing heat awareness and establishing risk-reduction initiatives. Such initiatives may include:

  • Developing a heat-specific safety plan – OSHA requires employers to have a site safety plan that addresses all risks at the worksite. This general safety plan is designed to cover all hazards, but there’s nothing stopping employers from developing hazard-specific safety plans to better mitigate the most prevalent or dangerous concerns.

    At worksites where heat exposure is an ever-present threat, a heat-specific safety plan makes sense. Inside a heat-specific plan, safety managers can identify where heat hazards are the most severe and what managers can do to protect against them. This includes pointing out vital resources (first aid stations, showers, etc.), splitting workers and safety managers into working groups for accountability purposes, and listing out emergency procedures should a worker experience heat illness.

  • Organizing heat safety training prior to the project’s start – Safety managers are responsible for keeping all employees and supervisory personnel on the same page regarding safety. This is also true of heat safety, and the best way to ensure this preparedness is with adequate pre-project training.

    Heat training doesn’t need to be complicated or last long – it merely needs to reinforce heat risk mitigation procedures. The value here is boosting heat awareness among workers and managers so everyone is prepared in the event of an emergency.

  • Assessing risk on a worker-by-worker basis – People respond to heat exposure differently, and this varied response should be accounted for so the most vulnerable workers can be properly protected.

    Age, fitness level, overall health, experience, and role all factor into a worker’s vulnerability to heat. Prior to beginning work, these factors should be taken into consideration for each worker, so safety-first work rotations and break patterns can be established.

  • Acclimating workers during the project’s early phases – The majority of heat-related worker deaths and injuries occur in the first couple weeks of a project’s start. If employees aren’t given time to adjust to hot conditions, they are far more likely to be overwhelmed by the heat. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that safety managers slowly ramp up work activity over several days, giving workers plenty of breaks and limiting exertion during this period.
  • Ensuring workers have heat monitoring resources on them – One of the best ways to ensure workplace safety is to give workers access to temperature taking tools. As the people on the front lines against the heat, it’s critical that workers be able to remain aware of dangerous heat indexes.

    An inexpensive and reliable way to do this is with a liquid crystal thermometer (LCT). LCTs are accurate within a degree or two and can be embedded in a simple TWIC card for maximum usability. Within seconds, workers can get an updated look at ambient temperatures and take steps to protect themselves from dangerous levels of heat and humidity.

  • Prioritizing heat-related first aid resources – Safety managers are responsible for maintaining adequate first aid resources onsite, and at worksites where heat hazards are present, heat injury supplies should also be present. This includes the basics, such as cold compresses, ice packs and running water. Also consider electrolyte tablets for severe dehydration cases.

    These supplies should be easily accessed by work crews and their location marked in the heat safety plan for quick reference.

Heat Awareness is Imperative for Workplace Safety

Heat is an ever-present killer during the summer months, so occupational safety managers need to remain on their guard. They also need to remain aware of heat hazards on their worksites. And beyond awareness, safety managers must be ready to respond to heat illnesses, with adequate emergency resources and to-the-minute information provided by temperature-taking tools.

A Guide to Protecting Work Crews from the Summer Heat

As numerous heat records were shattered across the U.S. in the summer of 2023, it meant that people working outside were at major risk of heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat illness is an invisible, but quite capable killer that’s caused dozens of fatalities and thousands of injuries over the past several years. And it is believed that those numbers are vastly underreported, as many heat-related illnesses and deaths fall outside the purview of government regulators.

Employers are responsible for protecting their crews from heat hazards, and these protective measures must be reinforced at every level of the organization. In this guide, we’ll address what steps contractors can take to safeguard the health of their crews.

Judging Heat Conditions on Site: Don’t Focus Only on the Temperature

Elevated temperatures are an obvious heat-related danger, and as such, it’s important for supervisors to keep an eye on the thermometer. But there’s more to heat risk than temperature alone, as humidity, solar exposure, and wind speed all play a role as well.

For example, heat index values factor humidity into the equation and is therefore a useful alternative to temperature alone along the Gulf Coast, where high levels of summer humidity are expected.

Some contractors now use the wet bulb globe temperature (WBGT) – a metric utilized by the U.S. military for decades – that also factors in solar exposure and wind speed. In other words, WBGT is most relevant for people working in direct sunlight.

As actual, on-the-ground heat dangers vary with humidity, sun exposure and other factors, it’s recommended that contractors use heat index values to assess field conditions.

What Does OSHA Have to Say About Heat Safety?

OSHA doesn’t have heat-specific safety regulations on the books, but employers are still held to the General Duty Clause, which requires companies to identify and protect workers from any onsite hazards.

Employers can’t use “but there’s no OSHA heat safety standard” as an excuse, in other words.

The agency does have plenty of heat safety resources to draw from, though, including informational literature and tips for employers. This includes guidance on every part of the safety planning process, which can be extremely helpful for new contractors that don’t have an emergency action plan (EAP) in place.

Here are some practical tips for mitigating dangerous summer temperatures for every phase of the project.

Before the job begins: Create a Heat Safety Plan and Raise Awareness of Heat Hazards

Before mobilization, contractors should have a firm idea of the jobsite’s layout and where heat hazards are likely to emerge. For instance, if there’s a part of the site that’s exposed to dawn-to-dusk sunlight, it may be a good idea to avoid setting up any workstations in that area.

This is the kind of thinking that should be included in the project’s Emergency Action Plan (EAP). In fact, some contractors go a step further and draft a heat-specific safety plan. Given the extreme temperatures affecting some parts of the country (the south and southeast, most notably), heat-specific plans make a lot of sense. Each EAP should include the following:

  • The location and nature of any heat hazards on the jobsite. While trapped heat is usually a problem for interior work areas only, they can emerge on construction sites and other exterior work environments as well.
  • The location of any cooling stations or any air-conditioned areas. If heat illness does occur, moving the affected worker to a cool spot with shade is critical.
  • An inventory and location of all heat injury resources, such as cold packs, towels, and fluids.
  • A set of processes that specify what to do and who to contact should someone come down with heat illness.
  • The contact information for any nearby emergency medical institutions.

Once this plan is established, it must be communicated to all levels of leadership and to the workers themselves. Ideally, leadership and the crew would be involved in helping put together a heat safety plan. This will ensure that everyone on the team has a clear understanding of the company’s heat safety policies. Regular training, toolbox talks, and unscheduled drills are all worthy investments to ensure maximum heat safety awareness.

This training should also address what signs and symptoms of heat illness to look for, as other workers are likely to spot them first in their coworkers. They include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache and muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

Invest in Tools That Monitor Heat Levels

If your workers can keep an eye on the temperature, they’ll be more aware of the heat and more likely to observe heat safety protocols.

The right tools are essential for jobsite safety, and when it comes to heat-related dangers, one such tool is a liquid crystal thermometer, as LCTs are compact, lightweight, and offer instant information about the temperature. LCTs can be encapsulated and scaled down to fit inside TWIC cards, which can be worn on a lanyard, kept in a pocket, or tossed in the toolbox. LCTs are accurate and can also include the company’s branding or additional heat safety information.

In this way, LCTs offer double advantages in safety and cost effectiveness, as they’re inexpensive to procure at volume and give workers a highly usable tool for remaining aware of the heat.

Get Workers Acclimated to the Heat and Set Up a Cooling Station

According to OSHA, about 75 percent of all heat-related deaths occur in the first week of the job. It takes time for the body to adjust to extreme heat stress, especially for people who aren’t accustomed to the climate or strenuous activity. To avoid overloading the team early on, OSHA recommends the 20 percent rule. The idea behind this is to slowly work up to full capacity in the sun over several days.

Assuming an 8-hour workday, using the 20 percent rule, workers should only spend one hour and 40 minutes (20 percent) in the sun during their first day on the project. They can spend the rest of the day working without heat stress. Every subsequent day, add another 20 percent in the sun until they’re up to full capacity. Some workers may need a bit longer to adjust, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, so allow for that time for adequate acclimation.

At the project’s outset, this is also the time to establish a cooling station. It should remain in the shade throughout the day and always have water available. Some contractors set up tents with circulating fans for additional heat relief, and if there’s an air-conditioned room they can access while cooling, even better.

Keep Safety Personnel on High Alert, Encourage Regular Breaks and Reduce Work Intensity in High Heat

During the peak of summer, there may be no relief from dangerously hot days. Where possible, shifting work to the evening or night hours is recommended, but noise ordinances may prevent this.

When work must be done during the day, being proactive is the rule. That means doing the following:

  • Enforcing regular water breaks. During high activity periods, giving workers a break every 15 minutes to drink fluids is recommended. Stick to water rather than caffeinated beverages.
  • Cycling work teams out of the sun regularly. If possible, cycling workers between sun-exposed and shaded workstations can reduce heat stress.
  • Occasionally taking worker vitals to spot early signs of heat stress. This should only be done by trained medical personnel.
  • Keeping the contact information for any medical authorities in an easily accessible place, so it can be instantly referenced in an emergency.

In general, the point is to remain on high alert while heat indexes are at their most punishing. The faster everyone responds to severe heat illness, the better the affected worker’s chances of fully recovering.

Summer Heat Can Be Fatal, but Employers Can Keep Their Team Safe with the Right Protective Measures

While summers have always been hot, recent summers have produced deadly levels of heat. For work crews, heat illnesses can emerge suddenly and may be severe, if not deadly. But with effective planning, emergency resources, cooling equipment, and a commitment to heat awareness, employers can keep their project sites and workers safe and heat injury free.

Practical Tips for Avoiding Heat Illness on the Job

The U.S. Department of Labor states that occupational heat illnesses are widely under-reported. And yet, dozens of workers die every year from heat stroke and thousands more are seriously injured. What’s worse is that almost every single one of those heat injuries would’ve been preventable with effective safety measures in place.

Those measures aren’t difficult to establish, however, and there are low-cost, high impact resources that can help support a safe workplace.

Here are five examples of practical tips for avoiding heat illness on the job:

1) Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Illnesses

Before heat illnesses progress to potentially fatal emergencies, there are usually noticeable signs of distress that others can respond to. Heat exhaustion, for example, typically presents prior to heat stroke, but it may progress to heat stroke within minutes. It’s therefore critical that safety personnel and workers know what signs to respond to.

The symptoms of heat illness are:

  • Heavy sweating or complete lack of it
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Confusion
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Weak, racing pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Agitation
  • In severe instances, loss of consciousness may also be present

Sometimes, the above symptoms may come on quickly, but in many cases, the affected worker will demonstrate tell-tale signs in time to administer treatment. If provided promptly, treatment can stop minor heat illnesses from developing into something more serious.

That’s why everyone shares responsibility for detecting heat illness on the worksite. That includes the workers themselves, as they know their coworkers best and are usually right there when heat dangers are at their most intense.

2) Develop and Implement a Heat-Specific Safety Plan

According to OSHA regulations, every worksite is expected to have an emergency action plan (EAP) in place. At a minimum, the EAP must include:

  • The location of emergency exits and exit routes. These should be mapped onto a floorplan of the worksite.
  • What medical or fire authorities to contact in the event of an emergency.
  • How to alert employees when an emergency is in progress and how to contact family or next of kin, as well.

From OSHA’s perspective, that’s sufficient for an EAP, but employers overseeing hazardous worksites are expected to go a bit further with their safety planning. And on sites where dangerous levels of heat are expected, it makes sense for employers to develop a heat-specific safety plan. Such a plan should include the following:

  • The location and nature of any heat-related hazards on the job site. In areas like cement plants, mills, foundries, fabrication plants and other industrial centers, heat may concentrate in spots to the point where it results in hazardous conditions.
  • A series of procedures to be deployed should a heat-related emergency occur.
  • What processes are in place to monitor and mitigate any heat hazards.
  • An inventory of all heat-related medical resources and their locations on the worksite.
  • Contact information for a nearby emergency medical facility. Time is critical when treating heat illness, as it may only take minutes for symptoms to progress to something life-threatening. If heat stroke does occur, contacting the medical facility on file should be one of the first measures taken.

3) Ensure Onsite Safety Personnel are Prioritizing Heat Hazards

A heat safety plan is only effective if it’s implemented and practice drills are performed periodically. That’s where the company’s leadership must take charge. This starts with top-level management, but every link in the leadership chain, down to onsite safety and medical personnel should be on the same page regarding how to manage heat risks.

For example, when elevated temperatures are present, onsite medical personnel should regularly check worker vitals, including body temperature and pulse, to detect the early signs of heat illness. Safety personnel should also consider altering work practices when the heat and humidity is higher, such as rotating crews in and out of shade, enforcing water breaks and switching to light duty.

Maintaining safe conditions means being proactive, and this responsibility falls to the company’s management, and who it empowers to ensure safety.

4) Give Crews the Tools Needed to Monitor Temperatures

Safety planning and training are critical for reducing the risk of heat illness. Another important piece of the heat safety puzzle – investing in heat monitoring tools that workers can use in the field. After all, your field workers deal with the worst effects of heat exposure, so empowering them with better information can save lives. Even better, many of these resources are simple to use and inexpensive to invest in.

For example, many contractors provide their workers with TWIC cards that house liquid crystal thermometers that use thermochromic liquid crystals (TLCs) to measure heat levels. When exposed to heat, TLCs alter their orientation and physical structure – which also changes their optical qualities. In other words, TLCs change color with changing temperatures, and TWIC cards can be designed with microencapsulated pockets of these TLCs, so workers have a reliable, simple-to-use thermometer always on hand.

TWIC cards are inexpensive per unit and are extremely cost effective when purchased in volume. Contractors can therefore outfit their entire crew with temperature-taking equipment and safeguard them, without stressing the project’s budget.

5) Give Crews the Resources They Need to Treat Heat Illness

With heat illness, the best defense is preparation. That means preparing work crews for what to do if a heat-related emergency does occur. That includes the following:

  • Setting up a “cooldown area” that has shade and fluids for workers to drink. If a worker starts showing signs of heat exhaustion, they can stay out of the sun and rest here. Consider adding fans to circulate air through the area.
  • Identifying all sources of running water at the job site and ensuring this water can be accessed if a worker does experience heat illness.
  • Keeping a modest store of emergency heat illness supplies on hand, including towels, electrolyte tablets and ice packs.
  • Drilling workers on what to do if someone gives in to heat stress. This includes applying cold packs or water to the affected worker, contacting emergency personnel right away, and moving the person to a cooler environment.

By preparing for the worst-case scenario, workers can respond appropriately when heat illness occurs and potentially avoid a fatal outcome.

Heat Illnesses Can Cause Serious, Even Fatal Injury, So Provide the Tools Necessary to Keep Your Crews Safe

Heat can be a killer, and at some projects sites it’s also impossible to avoid. However, there are plenty of ways that contractors and work teams can mitigate the risk of heat illness.

Much of this boils down to preparedness, as heat illnesses can be treated and reversed with prompt action. As such, it’s important for contractors to have safety measures in place to respond when heat exhaustion or stroke does occur. And it’s also important for workers to have the temperature-taking tools they need to keep a close eye on heat levels. In this way, everyone from top leadership to field workers can remain safe and aware of the heat.

How to Recognize Heat Stroke on the Jobsite

Heat injuries send thousands of workers to the emergency room every year, and kill dozens in the process. Yet, every one of these injuries and deaths are preventable with the right safety processes and equipment in place.

The first step to heat injury prevention, though, is knowing what heat stroke looks like. Heat stroke is the most serious form of heat illness and can be fatal if not treated. Even if treated, heat stroke can result in permanent complications, so precautions are a must.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Heat Stroke?

Heat injuries progress from less severe to more severe quickly, and heat stroke is at the severe end of this progression. What begins as heat exhaustion – a non-emergency that resolves completely with treatment – progresses to heat stroke if the worker isn’t removed from hazardous conditions.

When heat stroke strikes, it presents with the following symptoms:

  • Elevated body temperature (can reach as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit or above)
  • Severe confusion or altered mental state
  • Excessive sweating or a complete lack of it
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Ataxia or loss of balance
  • Elevated or reduced blood pressure
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

Heat stroke is always a medical emergency and therefore requires emergency treatment to manage. Without treatment, heat stroke can be fatal, and delayed treatment can result in significant permanent injury, including traumatic brain injury.

Ideally, heat stroke is stopped before it emerges, when less severe forms of heat illness are present. Heat exhaustion, for example, presents with some of the same symptoms as heat stroke, but without the loss of consciousness or confusion that signals heat stroke. If workers and safety personnel are alert to these signs, then the person suffering from heat exhaustion can be removed and allowed to recover without an emergency response.

What is the Recommended Response if Heat Stroke is Suspected?

If heat stroke does emerge, an immediate response is required. In many cases, there’s only a short window of time to bring the person’s body temperature back into safe ranges, or the risk of permanent injury goes up. This could be as brief as 30 minutes, so time is of the essence.

The goal is to bring the patient’s body temperature down as quickly as possible. First, call 911 and ensure emergency personnel are enroute as soon as possible.

If waiting for emergency responders to arrive, measures must be taken to reduce the patient’s body temperature. The best way to do this is to immerse the patient in cold water. If that’s not possible, the patient’s clothing should be removed and cool water applied their skin. This can be done by soaking cloths in cold water and placing them on the afflicted person. The worker should be removed to a cool, shaded place for this, and ideally in an area with circulating air. Target the neck, armpits and groin when placing cloths or ice packs, as this is where heat tends to concentrate. Remain with the patient until emergency personnel arrive.

Heat Stroke is a Medical Emergency, so Organizations Need a Heat Safety Plan in Place

Given the potentially fatal nature of heat illnesses, many organizations opt to put together a heat-specific safety plan in place for their worksites. Such a plan typically includes the following:

  • The names and contact information of the people responsible for enforcing the plan
  • The name, address and contact information of a nearby emergency medical facility
  • The location and nature of any heat-related hazards on the job site
  • An action plan if a heat-related emergency occurs
  • The location of any onsite resources intended for treating heat illnesses
  • The preventative measures in place for heat-related emergencies

The point of this plan is to articulate what the company does to prevent heat illnesses. This may include checking worker vitals regularly, switching to an alternative work schedule or rotation, setting up hydration and cooling stations, or providing personnel with temperature-monitoring tools so they can respond when heat hazards are at their worst.

Monitoring the Temperature is Critical for Field Workers and Can Raise Awareness of Heat Stroke

100 percent of heat injuries can be prevented, and it’s easier to prevent those injuries if your field personnel know what conditions they’re facing. The problem is, the temperature can climb from hot to dangerously hot without anyone noticing, unless they’re monitoring temperature data.

This information is clearly most important for field employees where they work. That being the case, it makes sense to arm those employees with temperature-taking tools.

An inexpensive, easy-to-use and lightweight option are liquid crystal thermometers embedded in a twic card or something similar. Liquid crystal thermometers are reliable within a couple of degrees and can provide an instant check on ambient temperature.

A Heat Safety Plan Should Be Part of Every Cement Company’s Operations

Cement manufacturing plants are high-risk work zones. Chemical burns, excess noise, mechanical hazards, falling objects and airborne dust are some of the most common, but there’s another risk for cement companies to account for – heat.

In areas where heat is excessive, it can quickly lead to severe injuries if safety precautions aren’t taken. These precautions are generally simple, but they rely on strong planning and information to work – information like to-the-minute temperature data.

Heat is Always Present in Cement Plants, Making Heat Injuries a Significant Risk

Cement manufacturing plants generate intense heat, some of which escapes into the work environment. If poorly managed, the resulting rise in temperatures may put workers at risk. Further, workers are required to don protective wear that, while safeguarding the lungs, can trap thermal energy and put workers at increased risk of heat-related injury. This risk is higher still in hotter climates, like those along the Gulf Coast.

If a heat injury or illness does occur, it may take one of several forms, but heat exhaustion and heat stroke require the most attention. Here is how each one presents:

  • Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is less serious than heat stroke, but it can quickly develop into a medical emergency. Signs of heat exhaustion include an elevated body temperature, weakness, dizziness, headaches or cramps, changes in mood and reduced urination. Workers experiencing heat exhaustion should receive prompt medical treatment, including transport to a medical facility in serious cases.
  • Heat stroke – Heat stroke is a medical emergency and may result in permanent or fatal injury if not immediately treated. When the body loses its ability to regulate its temperature, heat stroke is the result. As such, heat stroke can cause body temperature to spike in excess of 106 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes. It may also cause profound confusion, an altered mental state, seizures, or loss of consciousness.

Heat is a silent killer, resulting in hundreds of deaths every year. With some basic precautions, though, many of those deaths can be prevented.

A Heat Safety Plan is Recommended for Cement Plants

The upside is that cement companies can plan around heat hazards and minimize their impact on worker safety. OSHA does not require organizations to have a heat safety plan in place, but they can make a big difference. Such a plan should include:

  • The personnel responsible for communicating and enforcing heat safety processes.
  • The location and nature of any heat hazards.
  • What medical facility to contact (and how to contact them) should a heat injury occur.
  • What onsite resources are available should a heat injury occur – and where to locate them.
  • What onsite resources are available to prevent heat injuries, such as cooling and water stations.
  • What measures and resources are in place to monitor temperature data.

A plan like this can be developed and communicated quickly to workers. It’s critical, though, that these procedures are enforced and backed up at the worker level. When a worker suffers a heat injury, the first people to notice are the people he’s working with. With safety plan training, those workers will be better equipped to notice heat injuries and properly respond to them.

An Effective Tool Against Heat Injuries: Easy-to-Carry Thermometers

As an invisible hazard, heat has a tendency to sneak up on workers and safety personnel. It can creep into dangerous territory without anyone noticing, at least not until a medical emergency occurs.

Constant temperature monitoring is the only way to keep an eye on heat hazards, but that can be prohibitively difficult in cement manufacturing facilities. Heat hazards may be present throughout the facility and may develop as work conditions change. The sheer scale of a cement facility adds to this difficulty.

One solution is to empower workers to track temperature data where they’re working. There’s no better way to get location-specific data, and it can be done quickly and inexpensively with the use of liquid crystal thermometers (LCTs).

The crystals inside LCTs respond to changes in temperature, specifically by rearranging themselves and contorting into different shapes. This changes their optical qualities – which we receive as a change in color. LCTs are inexpensive, accurate and can be incorporated into compact, lightweight items.

For example, LCTs can be embedded in TWIC sized heat cards that provide clear data about ambient temperature. Each card can feature additional information about heat injury symptoms or prevention methods. They can also feature the organization’s branding. They can be kept on a lanyard, in a toolbox, or even in the worker’s back pocket.

In this way, workers maintain constant heat awareness and can remove themselves from hazardous conditions as soon as they arise.

Give Cement Plant Workers the Tools to Protect Themselves from Heat-Related Injury

Cement plant workers rely on their company and their safety personnel to maintain a safe workplace. And from a safety standpoint, there’s a lot to consider at cement manufacturing facilities. Don’t forget to account for heat, though, as it’s certainly capable of fatal injury. That means developing a detailed heat safety plan and providing the resources your teams need to protect themselves.

Preparing Your Crew for the Summer Heat

Every year, summer heat kills dozens of workers and injures thousands more. As such, summer heat is a critical safety factor to account for. Heat exhaustion, and its deadlier cousin heat stroke, can produce life-threatening acute symptoms and long-term complications. Also, a single heat injury leaves people more susceptible to future heat injuries, so they’re a high priority risk.

If your crew’s busy season is the summer season, then it’s time to address workplace heat safety. That way, your crew will be ready for any weather they face.

Know the Signs and Consequences of Heat-Related Injury

The best defense against heat injury is attention. By paying attention and responding to the emerging signs of heat illness, the worst injuries can be avoided. Those at elevated risk of heat injury – the elderly and those with high blood pressure – may experience a more rapid and severe onset of symptoms.

There are multiple types of heat injuries, ranging in severity. They include:

  • Heat cramps – Heat cramps are a common first sign of heat injury and are more common in people who sweat heavily. They’re caused by an excessive loss of sodium via sweating and can produce painful spasms in the abdomen or extremities.
  • Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion sits between heat cramps and heat stroke in terms of severity. When the body starts losing its ability to regulate its internal temperature, heat exhaustion follows. Signs include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, excessive thirst, and reduced urination.
  • Heat stroke – Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is capable of inflicting fatal injury. In people with heat stroke, internal temperatures are dangerously high, and the body’s sweat-related processes fail. Heat stroke can quickly cause severe, including permanent, injury. Symptoms include loss of consciousness, confusion, seizures and either extreme sweating or no sweating at all. Emergency treatment is required to prevent fatal injury.
  • Rhabdomyolysis – Rhabdomyolysis commonly presents with heat stroke and is characterized by the rapid destruction and breakdown of muscle tissue. It can be caused by many things, including prolonged exertion in hot conditions.
    Rhabdomyolysis is a medical emergency, as muscle tissue releases proteins (myoglobin) when it is destroyed. The myoglobin can reach the kidneys and cause serious damage to them. Symptoms include muscle cramps, weakness, and dark-colored urine. Many people who experience rhabdomyolysis, though, are asymptomatic.

By taking note of the above signs and symptoms, your safety teams will spot heat injuries before they progress from bad to worse.

Create a Heat-Specific Safety Plan

Ideally, heat injuries are prevented, not just treated. And at busy worksites, the best way to prevent injury is to plan for it.

For some industries and major construction projects, safety plans are an OSHA requirement. However, many project managers go a step further and create site-specific safety plans – which often boil down to hazard-specific safety plans. On worksites where heat is a likely hazard, a heat-specific safety plan will improve preparedness should a heat injury occur. This plan may include the following:

  • Temperature data taken from the worksite
  • Provisions for how workers can monitor temperatures in the field
  • Where “hotspots” are likely to emerge
  • How and where workers will be given breaks to recover
  • Where heat-related first aid resources are located
  • What to do when a heat injury does emerge
  • Who to contact if a heat-related emergency occurs – or where to take an injured worker if there is an emergency
  • Assigning who is responsible for enforcing heat safety protocols

Once this plan is in place, it should be communicated to every work team and demonstrated through example by project leadership.

Establish Areas Where Workers Can Rest and Hydrate

Breaks and hydration are necessary for safety purposes, which means a shady, cool area to rest and plenty of water to drink. You can establish break areas with a tent, in a temporary, climate-controlled building, or just a well-shaded spot. Target areas that receive shade for extended periods of time, as these remain cooler throughout the day. High-volume fans are another inexpensive, but effective means of heat control.

Heat illness follows dehydration, so frequent water breaks are important for worker health. Depending on the heat index (a combination of temperature and humidity), workers may need up to 32 ounces of water every hour (a cup every 15 minutes) to maintain hydration. Make sure that there’s enough for every crew member, and that someone is assigned to get more water if necessary.

Keep an Eye on Changing Field Conditions, and Respond Accordingly

Even when the proper safety measures are taken, conditions can get to the point where working safely is too risky to manage. These dangerous conditions can creep up on worksites and safety managers, so monitoring the site’s heat index is a priority.

One way to do this is with cards designed with encapsulated liquid crystal (ELC) thermometers. ELC is made up of crystals that are highly sensitive to changes in temperature. Specifically, they twist and shift as heat increases, changing the way they absorb and reflect wavelengths of light. To us, we see this as a change in color. As heat increases or decreases, ELC thermometers change color, and they’re tiny enough to be incorporated into laminated cards.

If every worker is given one of these cards, which they wear on a lanyard or keep in their pocket – they’ll always be aware of worsening field conditions. ELC thermometers are accurate to within a couple degrees, too, so they can be relied on.

With the Right Safety Measures and Resources in Place, Workers Can Beat the Summer Heat

For many workers, heat is unavoidable. It can be planned for, though, and this goes a long way in preventing heat injuries. Such preparation should include onsite first aid resources, safety personnel, frequent hydration breaks, and heat monitoring equipment, among other measures.

With these policies in place, your teams can avoid a potentially tragic, and certainly avoidable emergency.

Managing Heat and High School Football

How common are heat injuries among high school football players?

Heat and high school football can make for a dangerous mix, but it’s unavoidable for anyone that participates in athletics of any sort. It’s especially problematic for football programs, and most heat-related injuries among high school athletes present in football players. This makes sense, given the extra gear that comes with football, as well as the constant exertion. But even with these additional risk factors, it’s unacceptable for any high school athlete to suffer severe or fatal injury due to heat stress. Heat injuries are almost always preventable and can be reversible if coaches and trainers take appropriate action beforehand and during an incident.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) track heat injuries that result in lost time. In other words, if a heat injury forces the athlete to miss activities for one or more days, it is tracked by the CDC. And according to the CDC, high school athletes experience more than 9,000 heat-related injuries every year. Among them, football players are 10 times more likely to experience a heat-related injury, compared to other high school athletes. Again, football players are at a much higher risk of heat stress, accounting for about five percent of all heat-related visits to the emergency room between 2005 and 2009.

Prevention methods are getting better, but there is still room for improvement.

What can be done to stop heat-related injuries among high school football players?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes. It’s certainly true when it comes to heat-related injuries, as they can be prevented with basic tools and prevention methods. If heat exhaustion or heat stroke does present, though, immediate action may protect the individual from fatal complications. “Immediate” is the keyword. Here is what coaches and trainers can do to protect their players:

1. Education and information – First, be aware of what heat illness looks like, how it presents and how it can be prevented. Make sure that the players take this seriously, because high school players aren’t likely to willingly admit they aren’t feeling well. Stress the importance of recognizing symptoms and allow anyone experiencing heat-related symptoms to seek respite as soon as possible.

Make sure trainers are also aware of the dangers of excessive heat, and task them with monitoring players. It’s not always clear from a distance who is in danger, so the more eyes, the better.

Heat Aware's Heat Cards - HATS40 | Avoid heat-related illnesses for workers2. Heat cards – Heat cards are simple reference, temperature monitoring and memory-jogging tools that encourage proper heat illness prevention. A heat card comes with a liquid crystal thermometer that constantly takes ambient air temperature. Check it often to keep abreast of what the weather is doing. Heat cards can also be customized with any reference materials needed, such as proper hydration methods, the symptoms of various heat illnesses, treatment methods and emergency contact information. It’s an inexpensive, easily worn and durable way to keep heat-related illness at the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.

3. Plenty of water – It is exceedingly dangerous to run football drills without water available to the players. This is obvious enough, but coaches often underestimate how much water players actually need to stay properly hydrated. Even if the temperature is below 90 degrees, humidity and heavy football pads will make it feel much hotter. To stay hydrated, players will need to intake at least 36 ounces of fluid every hour, and some will need even more. That’s a lot of water, so make sure there is always enough on hand. Assign someone to the sole task of keeping water supplies up, and don’t let players skip hydration breaks.

4. Provide a shaded rest area – Heat illness strikes when the body can no longer cool itself adequately. As the temperature and humidity climb, it’s harder for the body to transmit heat to the surrounding environment. Hydration will only provide minimal heat sinking, as important as it is, so additional measures are needed to keep players cool and safe.

Even something as simple as a shaded rest area, like a tent, can help normalize a player’s temperature. Consider placing the hydration station inside this area so players are forced into the shade for a bit. Also consider outfitting the spot with fans or misters, as this will cool players off quickly.

5. Act as soon as possible – If a player begins experiencing symptoms of heat illness, even if those symptoms are only apparent to the player, act immediately. If caught right away, heat illness can be stopped before it poses a serious risk. Before long, though, heat exhaustion will develop into heat stroke, and this is a medical emergency.

If the player is conscious and able, get them to a cool, shaded area and hydrate them. Move them inside where there is air conditioning and monitor their vitals to verify that their temperature is dropping. If heat exhaustion or heat stroke is apparent, rapid cooling is needed. If an ice bath is available, get them in one as soon as possible, taking care to keep the player’s head above the water if they are unconscious. If an ice bath is not available, get them to a cool area and cover them with cold, wet towels. In either case, contact emergency services as they may need to be taken to the hospital.

6. Keep an eye on players with additional risk factors – Some people are at a greater risk of heat illness, and these people should be monitored closely. Young people like high schoolers are generally healthy, but players who are overweight and those taking certain medications, including antidepressants and some antihistamines, are at an increased risk of heat illness. Keep an eye on them.

Heat illness is a constant threat to high school football players, but it doesn’t have to be a serious threat. With the right prevention and response methods in place, potentially fatal situations can be avoided.

What Are The OSHA Requirements for Heat Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is the governing body overseeing the implementation of workplace safety measures. It organizes these measures through various regulations, all of which employers need to be concerned with. As of yet, OSHA does not have particular regulations in place for heat safety, but that doesn’t mean employers can slide on protective measures. OSHA’s General Duty Clause requires employers to be aware of and remove recognizable hazards that are likely to cause serious harm or death to their workers. OSHA considers excessive heat, both environmental and labor-induced, to be among those recognizable hazards. As such, it is the employer’s responsibility to account for the heat and take the appropriate steps to neutralize its effects on employees.

OSHA Requirements For Heat SafetyWhat OSHA Recommends

OSHA may not have a regulation dedicated to heat safety, but it has published materials detailing how to best approach it. These materials should be of interest to any employer that wishes to maintain OSHA compliance regarding heat safety. OSHA recommends greater levels of awareness and intervention as the heat index climbs. The heat index takes into consideration both air temperature and relative humidity. As humidity rises, the body’s ability to wick off heat using sweat worsens, so it’s more difficult for workers to mitigate heat caused by labor. As air temperature and humidity rise, it is up to the employer to offset the increased danger with additional resources.

Some of the most important points of heat safety, from OSHA’s perspective, include:

  1. Provide workers with a shaded rest area – Once the heat index climbs above 90 degrees, heat illness becomes a real possibility. Lower heat indexes can also be a concern if the worker is outfitted with impermeable protective gear, including gear designed to protect against chemical or biological agents. As soon as the heat index passes the 90-degree threshold, or when workers are expected to don heavy, insulated gear, OSHA strongly recommends employers provide their employees with shaded rest areas. This area should be shaded at all times, so it should be comprehensive enough to keep the sun from intruding at any point of the day. It’s also best to set the rest area up where it will be unexposed to warm breezes, which can accelerate the onset of heat-related illnesses. A shaded tent is an example of an appropriate rest area. Its mobile design and contained environment is ideal for establishing a cool area, regardless of the location. Tents equipped with air conditioners or heavy-duty fans can offer the ideal base for workers in need of cooling.
  2. Provide workers with plenty of potable water – OSHA recommends water that is between 50 and 60 degrees, and between four and six cups of it every hour. Water consumption should begin before the worker notices thirst, as it may be too late to prevent dehydration once the worker becomes thirsty. There should always be drinking water available, so employers must have procedures in place to ensure supplies are replenished with regularity. Workers, and particularly workers who are new to working in the heat, should be encouraged regularly, and firmly, to drink plenty of water. Most incidences of occupational heat-related illnesses occur among inexperienced workers, as they may not be accustomed to working in the heat.
  3. Monitor workers continuously for signs of heat illness – When the heat index climbs above 90 degrees, supervisors should ensure that all heat safety measures are being observed. Shaded rest areas should be utilized, plenty of water should be consumed and other cooling methods taken advantage of. As the heat index climbs even higher, it is imperative that worksites have experts on heat-related illnesses available. These experts should be able to recognize the signs of heat illness right away and know how to administer first aid to workers experiencing symptoms. The expert should also recommend changes to work schedules in response to dangerous conditions. In short, there should be someone at the worksite who will ensure workers are safe and following protocols related to heat. At higher heat indexes, medical facilities should be available within minutes. If they aren’t, then it is the employer’s responsibility to have resources on hand to treat any heat illness that emerges. If the heat index climbs above 115 degrees, or if workers are fitted with heavy, insulated gear for long stretches of time, then additional, significant measures to prevent heat illness must be deployed. This includes physiologically monitoring workers, regularly checking their heart rate, temperature and other vitals that may indicate overheating. Workers should be acclimatized to an extreme environment like this prior to taking on a full workload.
  4. Provide cooling measures, for both preventative and curative situations – When the heat index passes 103 degrees, it’s important that employers consider personal cooling methods. This will protect workers who must remain in the sun for extended periods of time, and workers who cannot access rest areas as often. Personal cooling may be as simple as clothing that has been dampened with water, or something a bit more advanced, like misting stations. Reflective clothing and vests with cooling packs are also effective. If heat illness does appear, then immediate steps must be taken to prevent permanent injury (or death) to the worker. This includes rapid application of wet cloths, transport to a cooled room, administering fluids and immersion in an ice water bath. As this scenario may cause unconsciousness, it is critical that measures are in place to handle an unconscious person.
  5. Pair workers together while they are exposed to heat – The signs of heat illness can creep in slowly and may not be noticed before they become serious. Using a “buddy system” can help worksite managers detect heat illness faster, which may make the difference in keeping workers safe.

Heat-related illnesses are potentially deadly, and it is up to employers to neutralize hazards before they materialize. Adhering to OSHA recommendations will go a long way in doing this as they provide an excellent starting point.

Hydration and Avoiding Heat-related Illnesses

Hydration is the best defense against heat-related illnesses

Heat-related illnesses, most often in the form of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, are serious threats to worker safety. Every year, excessive heat kills dozens of U.S. workers, and incapacitates many more. Although it doesn’t have to be this way because with proper education, monitoring and worker safety procedures, heat illness can be avoided. It’s critical that serious heat illness be avoided on job sites because even if a worker is revived, they can face long-term complications that can affect their quality of life.

Ideally, worksites should be equipped with plenty of educational and reference materials so workers are constantly reminded of necessary precautions regarding heat. It is essential that site managers have this knowledge down pat so they can make sure their crew takes proper precautions when outside temperatures and heat indexes climb to dangerous levels.

A frontline approach to avoiding heat exhaustion or heat stroke is frequent hydration. Hydration will not guarantee workers are safe from heat-related illness, but it will provide a strong measure of protection. This is what proper hydration looks like:

  1. Less than 90 degrees Fahrenheit – No work restrictions or fluid intake measures are required. Intake fluids as needed and rest as needed.
  2. Between 90 and 94 degrees Fahrenheit – Workers should rest 10 minutes out of every hour and take in between 12 and 24 ounces of fluid.
  3. Between 95 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit – Workers should rest between 10 and 20 minutes out of every hour, depending on how strenuous their job is. Fluid intake should measure between 24 and 36 ounces every hour.
  4. Between 100 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit – Rest at least 20 minutes every hour, and more if needed. Take in 36 to 48 ounces of water every hour.
  5. Between 105 and 109 degrees Fahrenheit – Workers should get at least 40 minutes of rest hourly and take in between 36 and 48 ounces of water per hour.

When temperatures rise above 109 degrees Fahrenheit work should only proceed under the watchful eye of Health and Safety professionals.

As outlined above, extensive hydration is needed to maintain safety, and it should be reinforced with clear reference heat cards, heat index posters and the like.

The importance of avoiding heat-related illness

Athletes and workers in demanding, labor-intensive fields, such as construction and landscaping, are most often affected by heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Among athletes and laborers, there is often a sense of powering through the job, even when symptoms of heat exhaustion begin to emerge. This can prove to be fatal and should be strongly discouraged. Instead, the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke should be constantly checked for, along with making sure there is time for rest in the shade and adequate hydration. Symptoms of heat-related illness include:

  1. Heat exhaustion – Symptoms include excessive thirst, nausea, dizziness, weakness, excessive sweating, decreased urine output, headache, irritability and high body temperature. Heat exhaustion can be triggered by physical exertion in hot and humid weather and is the result of loss of electrolytes through sweating. Sweating pulls both fluids and electrolytes from the body, and they must be replenished to ensure continued cellular function.Most consider heat exhaustion to be a transition step to heat stroke, so aggressive treatment measures should be undertaken if it manifests. Fortunately, with prompt treatment, recovery is promising and rapid. Get the worker to a cool place, have them shed any extra clothing and cool them off with fanning or wet towels. Make sure to give them fluids, but only if they are awake and not confused. Intravenous fluids are an option if the worker is unresponsive.
  2. Heat stroke – Heat stroke produces most of the same symptoms as heat exhaustion, though disorientation and lack of sweating are also present. Heat stroke emerges when the body’s core temperature rises in excess of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and at this temperature, cellular damage and, by extension, organ failure, is expected in 30 minutes. When the body is stressed with this much heat, proteins inside the cells denature (or lose their physical properties). As a result, the cells lose their structure and leak their contents into surrounding tissue. This can occur throughout the body, so mass organ failure is expected if treatment is not prompt and extensive.Reducing body temperature is the primary goal when heat stroke is present. In fact, it should be attempted before transporting the worker to a medical facility. Move the worker to a cool place and engage in aggressive mechanical cooling. Ideally, the worker would be placed in an ice bath, taking care to monitor the worker at all times, especially if they are unconscious. If an ice bath isn’t available, apply wet, cold towels to the body and head. Intravenous fluid delivery will likely be essential to rehydrate the worker.

Heat stroke should be avoided at all costs. Even if the worker is rapidly resuscitated, serious, long-term complications can emerge. Mortality rates following heat stroke rise dramatically for recovered patients, suggesting that even after recovery, permanent cellular damage is still present and capable of interfering with the body’s normal functions. Research into heat stroke patients has found that functional impairment and loss of independent function are potential outcomes following recovery.

Fortunately, heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be avoided outright if employers take them seriously. Stay educated on heat-related illness awareness and provide plenty of information and hydration options for workers on the job site.

Heatstroke 101: What You Need To Know

Knowing the signs of heatstroke are important for anyone who works in a high temperature environment. This includes those that work outdoors, where hot, humid days produce heat-related illnesses in rapid fashion. At particular risk are people who labor outside and those who participate in organized sports, as the vast majority of heatstroke cases are brought on by extended physical exertion. Even those who are otherwise fit and healthy can be affected by heatstroke, so prevention and treatment methods should be standard in any high risk environment.

What are the signs of heatstroke?

Heatstroke is one of several heat-related illnesses, but is widely considered to be the most severe. Unlike other forms of heat-related illnesses, like heat cramps, heat rash or heat exhaustion, heatstroke is an immediate medical emergency that can result in death or permanent injury if not treated promptly. Recognizing what heatstroke looks like is the first step in preserving life, and the signs look like this:

  1. Elevated temperature – Heatstroke is usually diagnosed symptomatically, but the defining characteristic of the condition is a temperature in excess of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the body’s organs are at risk of sustaining damage. Indicator tools like heat cards can alert workers to dangerous outdoor temperatures, but the only way to confirm the presence of heatstroke is to get an accurate temperature reading from the affected person. Rectal thermometer readings are generally regarded as the most accurate.An important note – fever and heatstroke are not the same thing. Fevers are caused by physiological mechanisms in response to infection or illness. Heatstroke is a product of the body’s thermoregulatory mechanisms being overwhelmed. When the body’s thermoregulation is defeated, it is normally due to a combination of exertion, excessive environmental heat and impaired heat loss.
  2. Dizziness, mental confusion or weakness – These symptoms are often present before true heatstroke sets in, so they should serve as troubling red flags. Heat exhaustion is the standard term for heat illness that results in mental impairment or weakness, and always precedes heatstroke.
  3. Excessive sweating or a complete lack of sweating – Excessive sweating may be present in people who are exerting themselves during the onset of heatstroke. A complete lack of sweating is an alarming symptom, as it suggests that the body is severely dehydrated and unable to remove heat through sweating. At this stage, rapid temperature increase is imminent and potentially fatal.
  4. Loss of consciousness – As heatstroke progresses, loss of consciousness is possible and signals a high risk of neurological or cardiological complications. Loss of consciousness is usually an indicator of a poorer prognosis, even if the patient is able to fully recover from the episode. Lack of consciousness can also make some forms of treatment more difficult, so prevention should be emphasized so that people do not lose consciousness due to heatstroke.

If any of these signs are present, it is paramount that the person is immediately removed from the high temperature environment and administered treatment. As heatstroke is an emergency medical situation, emergency personnel should be alerted at once.

How to Prevent and Treat Heatstroke

According to The Journal of Emergency Medicine, heatstroke kills more than 600 people in the U.S. every year. The vast majority of these deaths occur in people who are at a higher risk of heatstroke, such as the very young or old, people with other medical conditions and people on medication that affects their thermoregulatory mechanisms. However, death is still a possible outcome in anyone who does not receive treatment. And death is not the only severe consequence of heatstroke. Researchers with the University of Chicago Medical Center studied dozens of patients affected by the 1995 Chicago heat wave, and found that even when patients fully recovered from heatstroke, they were often profoundly affected by the episode, even years later. Specifically, the researchers found that about half of the studied patients died within the following year, and many others had severe functional impairments related to the heatstroke.

In short, heatstroke prevention is not just a life or death situation – it is also about preserving the patient’s quality of life over the long haul. For this reason, prevention is the best cure, and workplaces and sports teams can minimize the chances of heatstroke by doing the following:

  1. Know when hot is too hot – The single biggest mistake that people, managers and coaches make is not taking the heat and humidity seriously. There is often a stigma attached to taking it easy, even when it’s hot outside. This is a dangerous stigma to abide by, as the chances of rapid heatstroke increase as the temperature rises. It’s not enough to just look at the thermometer either, as high humidity can greatly increase the heat index, or the perceived outdoor temperature. On a humid day, heat indexes can run up to 10-15 degrees hotter than the listed temperature, and indexes above the 100s mean dangerous conditions for outdoor workers and athletes. When the temperature gets this hot, consider bringing activities indoors, if possible.
  2. Enforce mandatory rest periods – If work or play cannot be brought inside, then workers should be required to rest a certain amount of time every hour. For example, if temperatures are above 100 degrees outside, workers should be required to rest at least 20 minutes out of every hour, and ideally inside. As temperatures climb, rest periods should be lengthened and workers monitored to ensure they are getting enough downtime.
  3. Dress codes that emphasize heat regulation – Impaired heat loss mechanisms are a key cause of heatstroke, but this can be addressed to an extent by promoting a safe dress code. This should include light fitting clothes that allow for better ventilation, lightly colored clothing that does not absorb as much sunlight and wider brimmed hats that block sunlight from reaching the face and neck.
  4. Ready access to rehydrating fluids – Dehydration is a ubiquitous feature of heatstroke, which suggests that many people who suffer from it did not hydrate adequately prior to symptoms. The problem is that most people don’t hydrate until they become thirsty, but thirst is an inadequate measure for determining when someone has lost too much fluid. For this reason, water or electrolyte drinks should be available at all times, and workers encouraged to rehydrate regularly, even when not thirsty.
  5. Carry helpful temperature indicators like heat cards – Heat cards equipped with liquid crystal thermometers (also called thermochromic liquids) are easily portable and can provide continuous monitoring of ambient temperature. With a heat card, safety personnel and workers know exactly when exterior temperatures are entering unsafe territory.

If worksites and sports teams rigorously apply these prevention methods, the chances of anyone suffering from heatstroke will be extremely low. However, if someone is suspected of experiencing heatstroke, treatment must be applied without hesitation. The goal of treatment is to reduce the patient’s core temperature to 102 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible. At this temperature, the patient is unlikely to experience further damage due to heatstroke and is also unlikely to experience “rebound” hyperthermia.

There are two methods of treatment that are generally considered to be the most effective. They include:

  1. Ice water bath immersion – Full body ice water immersion is considered to be the fastest method of temperature reduction possible. Ice water is able to bring core temperature down to 102 degrees within 20-40 minutes, which is typically fast enough to guarantee a positive prognosis. The problem with ice water bath immersion is that it is particularly uncomfortable and possibly dangerous if the patient is unconscious, as they may slip below the water and drown. Close monitoring of the patient is therefore necessary.
  2. Evaporative heat loss methods – This involves spraying the patient with water and placing a high powered fan next to the patient to wick away excess heat. Water is capable of absorbing a lot of heat in a short amount of time, so constant reapplication of water can also reduce core temperatures in a hurry. Although it is completely safe to use in unconscious patients and generally makes it easier to resuscitate the patient, if need be, it is not as effective as ice bath immersion. However, evaporative heat loss is usually easier to execute, as an ice bath is not always a feasible option.

There are other methods of reducing temperatures, including delivery of intravenous cold fluids, gastric or rectal lavage and application of cold, wet towels. None of these rival ice water bath immersion or evaporative heat loss in terms of effectiveness.

Heatstroke can be a killer, and even when it doesn’t result in death, it can leave the sufferer in poor shape for the rest of their life. To guarantee the near and long-term safety of workers or athletes, safety personnel must take heatstroke seriously and avoid it at all costs.