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Safety Matters: Are You Prepared for Extreme Heat?

A heat wave is an extended period of extreme heat and is often accompanied by high humidity. These conditions can be dangerous and even life-threatening for people who don't take the proper precautions.

Before Extreme Heat

To prepare for extreme heat, you should do the following:

  • Listen to local weather forecasts so you can be aware of upcoming temperature changes.

  • Never wait until you feel thirsty to start hydrating – you are well on your way to becoming dehydrated when you feel thirsty.

  • Use cooling fans to keep air circulating around your body.

  • Know the signs and symptoms of the various types of heat-related illnesses. Take time to monitor yourself and be aware of your co-workers.

  • Get trained in first aid to learn how to treat heat-related emergencies.

During Extreme Heat

What you should do if the weather is extremely hot:

  • Take time to monitor yourself and be aware of your co-workers.

  • Stay indoors as much as possible and limit exposure to the sun. If working outdoors, avoid prolonged periods of direct sunlight.

  • Stay on the lowest floor out of the sunshine if air conditioning is not available.

  • Postpone outdoor activities when possible.

  • Eat well-balanced, light, and regular meals. Avoid using salt tablets unless directed to do so by a physician.

  • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid drinks with caffeine. People who have epilepsy or heart, kidney, or liver disease, who are on fluid-restricted diets or who have a problem with fluid retention should consult a doctor before increasing liquid intake.


  • Limit intake of alcoholic beverages.


  • Dress in loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.


  • Protect your face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat.


  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat and take frequent breaks.


  • Do not underestimate the seriousness of heat-related illnesses.


Heat Cramps

Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.

  • Symptoms: Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen and heavy sweating.

  • First Aid: Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water.

Seek immediate medical attention if cramps last longer than 1 hour.

Heat Exhaustion

  • Symptoms: Heavy sweating, Weakness, or tiredness, cool, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, and fainting.

  • First Aid: Move person to a cooler environment, preferably a well air-conditioned room. Loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet clothes or have person sit in a cool bath. Offer sips of water. If person vomits more than once...

Seek immediate medical attention if the person vomits, symptoms worsen or last longer than 1 hour

Heat Stroke

  • Symptoms: Throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103°F, hot, red, dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting, loss of consciousness.

  • First Aid: Call 911 or take the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned, environment. Reduce body temperature with cool clothes or bath. Use a fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at higher temperatures. Do NOT give fluids.

Using a fan to blow air in someone’s direction may actually make them hotter if heat index temperatures are above the 90s. For more information on all of these heat related illnesses, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site.

*This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. For further information, please consult a risk management professional.



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