Heat Stress Concerns for Oil & Gas Workers

Date: June 21, 2022

Alan Anderson, Sr. Risk Control Consultant

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What Is Heat Stress, How Does It Happen, and Who Is Affected? 

Each year, thousands of employees become sick from heat exposure while on the job. Oil and gas workers are no exception, as they often get exposed to high temperatures and humidity at the job site. Heat stress occurs when a worker's body temperature rises above safe limits. When the body can't control its temperature, the body temperature rises, sweating fails, and the heart rate increases.

Heatstroke, heat exhaustion, and heat cramps are common types of heat stress and can be dangerous. Certain factors such as age, weight, use of drugs or alcohol, fitness level, degree of acclimatization, metabolism, medications, and other medical conditions can affect a worker's sensitivity to heat. Set up an occupational medical monitoring program for workers with a higher risk of heat illnesses but remains confidential.

Employers should train workers on the effects of heat stress and how to prevent it.

Protecting Oil and Gas Workers from Heat Stress

Rest, Water, Shade

Oil and gas workers should be provided with proficient rest, water, and shade while working. During high heat stress periods, require workers to take breaks in cooler areas such as a shady spot, air-conditioned vehicle, or nearby building. Keep in mind that OSHA refers to rest as refraining from strenuous activities. Workers can be assigned as spotters or asked to perform other light-duty work while resting.

Drinking water is essential to preventing heat stress. Workers should drink 1 liter per hour, even if they aren't thirsty, to maintain hydration throughout the day. Managers and supervisors should encourage workers to avoid drinking energy drinks as they can increase dehydration. If workers choose to drink them, they should drink at least 1.5 liters of water along with the energy drink.

Personal Protective Equipment

Wearing the proper clothing to the job site can make a big difference in body temperature and sweat evaporation. Encourage workers to wear lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and encourage them to change if completely saturated. Fire-resistant clothing has also come a long way and has nearly become as breathable as a cotton shirt. If your company provides fire-resistant clothing for its employees, consider upgrading to the latest material.

Providing rig workers with different colored hard hats can help provide a more organized and safe work environment. Industry standards suggest service workers wear a bright yellow or orange hard hat, while experienced employees wear white. In case of an emergency, train your team to look for workers with white hard hats. Try to discourage using darker hard hats as they attract more heat than other colors.

Acclimating Oil and Gas Workers

For the first five to seven days a worker is on the job, managers or supervisors should assign the worker lighter workloads and longer rest periods to adjust to the heat unless they have already acclimated to the hot work environment. Supervisors should monitor temperatures, humidity, and workers' responses to heat at least hourly.


All workers should be aware of the signs of heat stress, especially supervisors. If a worker starts to show symptoms, have them sit down somewhere cool, like a truck, and watch over them to make sure they don't get worse.

It is uncommon for an employee who exhibits signs of heat stress to be able to return to full capacity on the same day. Once symptoms hit, the employee's risk of more serious conditions begins to escalate faster.

Heat stress is preventable. Take time to train workers on the symptoms to look for and how to prevent them. Contact your BITCO Risk Control Consultant for more ways to stay safe on the job. To find a BITCO agent near you, click the "Find an Agent" button below.

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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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