Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other

Creating workplaces where we all watch out for each other


New OSHA resource: Heat exposure and personal risk factors


Photo: HadelProductions/iStockphoto

Washington — Certain personal risk factors increase workers’ risk for heat-related injury and illness, OSHA cautions.

“Although you may be exposed to similar levels of heat and engaged in the same type of work as your co-workers, personal risk factors” such as health conditions, medications, and physical and behavioral characteristics “may cause you to be at greater risk,” the agency says in a recently published document.

Conditions or medications that can cause a worker to be less likely to sense heat conditions or retain water include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Mental health conditions
  • Respiratory diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Sedatives

Additionally, some physical or behavioral characteristics may cause a worker to dehydrate more quickly. These include:

  • Age (60 and older)
  • Lower level of physical fitness
  • Pregnancy
  • Acclimatization status
  • Lower intake of water
  • Alcohol use within 24 hours of shift
  • Use of illicit drugs, such as opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine

“Ultimately,” OSHA says, “it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe and healthful for workers; however, a heat injury and illness prevention plan needs the meaningful participation of workers and their representatives to be effective.”

The agency has tips to help keep workers safe in the heat:

  • Discuss with your medical provider how to best prepare to work in hot conditions.
  • Drink 8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty.
  • Notify your supervisor if you feel ill and move to a cool space.
  • Take rest breaks in air-conditioned spaces or cool or shaded areas.
  • Check on co-workers regularly; report signs of heat illness to a supervisor, and provide water or ice while remaining with them until help arrives.
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing comprised of breathable fabric, like cotton.
  • Know your employer’s emergency response plan; when in doubt, call 911.
  • Gradually acclimatize to the heat when returning to work after time away.

McCraren Compliance offers a full range of safety and health training and consulting services. Plus we can help you incorporate well-being into your traditional systems in order to support the Total Worker Health of your workforce.

Call 888-758-4757, email or visit our website

Original article published by Safety+Health an NSC publication