SAFETYmatters - Heat Stress

This time of year all of us look forward to vacations, visits to the beach, and just lolling about enjoying the warmth of summer. Then there is work, and here at the University of Iowa many jobs require working in environments that are hot. Hot environments may be encountered when working outside during hot, humid summer days, when working in confined spaces, or in areas with radiant heat sources. 

Every year in the US, thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure; in 2016, seven died. These illnesses and deaths are preventable. 

To avoid heat stress follow these steps: 

  • Pace the work, taking adequate rest periods (in shade or cooler environment). 
  • Drink plenty of water: in hot environments the body requires more water than it takes to satisfy thirst.
  • Use adequate fans for ventilation and cooling, especially when wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Keep shaded from direct heat where possible (e.g., wear a hat in direct sunshine).

 Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are the 2 main heat related illnesses, their symptoms and first aid are: 

  • Heat stroke, the most serious form of heat-related illness, happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excess heat. Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may result in death! Call 911 immediately.
  • Heat exhaustion is the body's response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating. Have worker sit or lie down in a cool, shady area or inside and drink water or sports drinks. Take to clinic or emergency room for medical evaluation or treatment if signs or symptoms worsen or do not improve within 60 minutes.

Please contact the University’s Industrial Hygienist, Justin Newnum at 335-9554 with any questions.

Heat stress chart