November 17, 2023

How to keep your workers safe in the blazing summer heat

Triple-digit temperatures and record or near-record highs have become the norm throughout Colorado in the summer.

Heat can cause discomfort for those who work outside and can lead to more on-the-job injuries, such as falls and other accidents, because the heat makes it difficult for workers to concentrate. The research shows that on days when temperatures top 100 degrees Fahrenheit, injury risk grows by 10% to 15%.

Those who work in construction, road maintenance, landscaping or one of the many other professions involving outdoor work environments can’t avoid the heat, but as an employer, you can implement sun safety measures to reduce your employees’ likelihood of developing heat illness. You can also watch for symptoms of distress that could signal trouble.

Signs of heat illness

Working outdoors in the sun puts employees at a higher risk of experiencing heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and, worst of all, heat stroke. Some symptoms of heat illness are:

  • Confusion.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness. 
  • Nausea.
  • Elevated body temperature.

Risk factors for heat illness

Along with direct sun exposure, other factors that increase the risk of heat illness to employees include:

  • High temperature and humidity.
  • Heavy physical labor.
  • Little or no air movement.
  • Low fluid intake.
  • Wearing heavy clothing or personal protective equipment.
  • Being in poor physical condition.
  • Health complications.
  • Some medications, including those treating low blood pressure or allergies.
  • Recent exposure to hot working conditions.
  • Alcohol consumption.

Recognizing heat illness

Recognizing the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others could help avoid serious heat-related health problems or even death. If you see such signs, take action immediately.

Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention. At the very least, you should remove the employee from sun exposure and place them in a cool or shaded area, give them cool water to drink, remove their unnecessary clothing, and have another person stay with them until medical personnel arrive or their symptoms diminish.

Preventing heat illness

Preventing heat illness is the best way to ensure healthy employees and efficient work in the summer heat. Tips for preventing heat illness include:

  • Train employees and supervisors on the risk factors for heat illness and how to combat them.
  • Train employees on how to recognize symptoms of heat illness in themselves and others.
  • Remind employees to drink plenty of water.
  • Provide cool drinking water in a convenient spot close to employees’ work area.
  • Encourage employees to drink before becoming thirsty.
  • Schedule frequent breaks out of the sun or in air-conditioned areas.
  • Ensure employees eat regular meals or snacks to replenish their electrolytes.
  • Remind employees to wear sunscreen.
  • Provide shade on extra-hot days, if possible.
  • Set up a buddy system so workers can watch for signs of heat distress in one another.
  • Increase the level of physical labor gradually or provide more frequent rest and water breaks for new employees or those returning from more than a week off.

Check out our free posters that you can now order or download in both English and Spanish!

These posters include infographics and information to help employees recognize the symptoms of heat illness as well as a tool box talk on the back.

How to Prevent Heat Illness Poster and Toolbox Talk
Cόmo Protegerse y Proteger a los Demás del Estrés Térmico

You can also review the sun safety measures outlined in our infographic and share the infographic with your workers.

Check out our Safety Hub for more information on resources and services available.