Heat-Related Illnesses

Date: July 30, 2020

Nancy Rigby, BITCO Home Office Technical Specialist, Risk Control

Importance of acclimatization for new employees

The heat of summer is in full swing. Each year in the United States, thousands of workers suffer from heat-related illnesses. While heat illnesses can affect all employees, new employees are at the highest risk. In fact, according to OSHA, over 70 percent of heat-related deaths occur during a worker’s first week of work. Keeping your employees safe by training them on what to look out for and how to prevent heat-related illnesses is necessary for their safety.

Dangers of working in heat

Heat-related illness can affect anyone, regardless of their age or physical condition. If left untreated, severe heat illnesses can result in permanent damage to the brain and other major organs. It can even result in death.  

Types of heat-Related illnesses and symptoms

 Several different types of heat-related illnesses can affect employees. All symptoms should be taken seriously, especially for any worker who is new to the job.

 Here are some of the symptoms to look out for:

  • Heat Stroke: confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, high body temperature, chills, throbbing headache, hallucinations, hot, dry skin, or profuse sweating.
  • Heat Exhaustion: weakness, dizziness, heavy sweating, and impaired motor skills.
  • Heat Cramps: muscle pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms, or legs.
  • Heat Rash: red bumps on the neck, chest, and in folds of the skin.

Ensure that your employees are able to recognize the symptoms, and know the proper steps to take in the event that a coworker is experiencing symptoms. Proper training is crucial to help keep employees safe.

Establish acclimatization for new employees

Heat acclimatization occurs when the body progressively adapts to increased levels of heat stress. New employees, as well as employees who have been off the job site for an extended amount of time, or employees who are starting back to work after the cooler months, should take heat acclimatization seriously. Much of the adjustment to heat takes about 7 to 10 days during which the body will undergo a series of changes making continued exposure to heat more durable. However, it may take up to several weeks to fully acclimatize.

To prevent heat-related illnesses, employers should:

  • Schedule new hires shorter work time in the heat.
  • Allow for more frequent breaks.
  • Provide training for employees on heat stress, symptoms, and heat index.
  • Preach rest, water and shade.
  • Keep an eye on employees for any heat-related illness symptoms.
  • Set up a buddy system to make sure workers aren't working alone.
  • Any worker showing symptoms should stop working immediately. They should never be left alone.
  • Extra precaution to heat should be taken for 1-2 weeks before workers return to their normal schedule. 

Heat-related illnesses can be prevented with proper training. At BITCO, our Risk Control Consultants are here to help you create safety plans and practices that help protect your workers.

To see what additional resources and safety tips BITCO Insurance Companies can provide for its insureds, please contact your Risk Control Consultant, or speak with an agent today.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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