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For Immediate Release
July 22, 2003
For More Information:
Kevin Weeks 503-947-7428
kevin.s.weeks@state.or.us


Watch for Heat Stress at Work


Working during the summer in Oregon, especially outdoors, can be uncomfortable when the thermometer hits 90 degrees and above. Combine high temperatures, high humidity and physical work and you may develop a work-related heat illness. The most severe heat-induced illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If urgent action is not taken to treat a case of heat exhaustion, the illness could progress to heat stroke, and possibly even death.


Employers and co-workers should be alert for common indicators of heat exhaustion. A person coping with heat exhaustion will still sweat but may also experience extreme fatigue, nausea, light-headedness or a headache. The skin of the affected person could be clammy and moist, with a pale complexion and a normal, or only slightly elevated body temperature.


What should be done to help a person suffering heat exhaustion:

  1. Move the person to a cool shaded area. Don't leave the person alone. If the person is dizzy or light-headed, lay them on their back and raise their legs about 6-8 inches at the feet. If the person is sick to their stomach, lay them on their side.
  2. Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
  3. Have the person drink some cool water (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are not feeling sick to their stomach.
  4. Try to cool the person by fanning them. Cool the skin with a spray mist of cold water or a wet cloth.
  5. If the person does not feel better in a few minutes, call for emergency help (911)

The ideal situation is to prevent heat illness by protecting workers. Consider the following suggestions to help protect workers:

  1. Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-induced illnesses and what to do to help workers
  2. Perform the heaviest, most labor-intensive work during the coolest part of the day.
  3. Slowly build up tolerance to the heat and the work activity (this usually takes up to two weeks).
  4. Use the buddy system to monitor the heat (work in pairs).
  5. Drink plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15-20 minutes).
  6. Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable (such as cotton) clothing.
  7. Take frequent short breaks in cool, shaded areas - allow your body to cool down.
  8. Avoid eating large meals before working in hot environments.
  9. Avoid caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these beverages make the body lose water and increase the risk of heat illnesses).

Workers can be at increased risk when they take certain medications. Check with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacy to see if medicines you take may affect you when working in hot environments. People who have experienced a heat-induced illness in the past, or must wear personal protective equipment while on the job are at higher risk for heat illness.


HEAT STROKE - A Medical Emergency


If heat exhaustion goes unnoticed or left untreated heat stroke can result. In extreme situations, heat stroke may lead to death. Heat stroke is a different condition than heat exhaustion, and there are several reactions which occur to the human body: Dry, pale skin (no sweating); hot red skin (looks like a sunburn); mood changes; irritability, confusion, and not making any sense; seizures or fits, and collapsing (person will not respond to verbal commands).

What should be done:

  1. Call for emergency help (i.e., ambulance or 911).
  2. Move the person to a cool, shaded area. Don't leave the person alone. Lay them on their back and if the person is having seizures, remove objects close to them so they won't hit them. If the person is sick to their stomach, lay them on their side.
  3. Remove heavy clothing and outer coverings.
  4. Have the person drink some cool water (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are alert enough to drink anything and not feeling sick to their stomach.
  5. Try to cool the person by fanning him or her. Cool the skin with a spray mist of water, a wet cloth, or a wet sheet. If ice is available, place ice packs in armpits and groin area.


A "Heat Stress Safety" reminder card is available from Oregon OSHA. You can download the reminder card from Oregon OSHA's Web site, www.orosha.org, under "Publications." The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also has a booklet with heat stress prevention tips called "Working in Hot Environments." The booklet is available for download from NIOSH's Web site, www.cdc.gov/niosh/hotenvt.html