Everything You Need to Know About Occupational Heat Exposure

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Everything You Need to Know About Occupational Heat Exposure

By Zuma Insurance Services | May 23, 2018



For many workers, heat exposure is an unavoidable part of the job. For example, if a worker works in construction, high temperatures can lead to significant heat exposure. Likewise, individuals who work in the automotive repair industry must often handle hot objects in the course of their work resulting in a heated environment. Whether the individual works outdoors in the heat or is in direct physical contact with hot objects and areas, the risks are serious. For this reason, any employee exposed to heat on the job needs to take certain precautions to avoid injury and illness.

Understanding the Hazard of Heat

Heat is hazardous to workers for a variety of reasons. For example, when a worker comes into contact with a hot object, he or she may suffer severe burns. Workers who must do their jobs in a hot environment also face significant dangers. When the air is hot, the body must get rid of excess heat in order to maintain its normal temperature. Typically, the body gets rid of excess heat by sweating and circulating blood to the skin, where it can be cooled.

If the body isn’t able to get rid of excess heat, it is forced to store this heat, which leads to an increase in the body’s core temperature. This increases the individual’s heart rate and makes it more difficult for him or her to focus on the task at hand. If heat exposure continues without treatment, the individual may faint. And often time in jobs such as construction and auto repair, the surroundings on the job make fainting from heat exposure even more dangerous. For example, a construction worker may faint while working on a roof.

Extreme cases of heat exposure lead to death. Other possible effects of heat exposure include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash.

Who is at risk of heat exposure?

Heat exposure can affect any worker who works in an overheated environment, whether it is located indoors or outdoors. Some of the factors that may make dangerous levels of heat exposure more likely include environments with limited air movement, direct sun exposure, contact with hot objects, radiant heat sources, high temperatures, high humidity, high levels of physical exertion and the use of non-breathable clothing or equipment.

Everything You Need to Know About Occupational Heat Exposure

Working in the Heat Safely

When working in heat, workers must take certain precautions in order to prevent complications from occupational heat exposure. Employers should also be aware of these issues so they can be sure their employees are working in a safe environment. To prevent dangers related to heat exposure:

  • Know when it’s too hot to work. – Although there is no specific “too hot to work” law, it is still important to pay attention to the heat index. The heat index indicates the level of danger to workers based on the current temperature and humidity. Using this index, employers and employees can determine what types of precautions need to be in place.
  • Stay hydrated. – When working in the heat, one of the best things workers can do is to remain hydrated. Proper hydration ensures that the worker is able to sweat to cool down. Because sweating depletes water from the body, employees working in the heat need to drink more water than they normally would to remain hydrated.
  • Rest frequently. – When the heat index is high, workers need to work and rest in cycles designed to keep them from overheating. Rest is important for construction heat safety, as well as for workers exposed to heat in other industries.

Key Takeaways

Everything You Need to Know About Occupational Heat Exposure

  • Many workers are exposed to high levels of heat because of their jobs.
  • Heat can be dangerous when workers don’t take precautions. In some cases, heat exposure is fatal.
  • Employees and employers can prevent problems by being aware of risks and property heat safety protocols.

Although taking precautions prevents heat-related problems, workers sometimes suffer injuries or illness because of heat exposure. Learn more about protecting against loss by contacting Zuma & Associates today.