Coronavirus

Employer Information for Heat Stress Prevention during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Existing heat illness prevention programs and policies can be tailored to the unique challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heat stress is the total amount of heat the body encounters. It may come from a variety of indoor or outdoor sources such as: Heat from work processes and machinery (e.g., forge) Environmental temperatures, humidity,…

Existing heat illness prevention programs and policies can be tailored to the unique challenges of working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heat stress is the total amount of heat the body encounters. It may come from a variety of indoor or outdoor sources such as:

  • Heat from work processes and machinery (e.g., forge)
  • Environmental temperatures, humidity, and lack of air movement (e.g., no wind or inadequate air circulation)
  • Internal metabolic processes (e.g., illnesses that create fever)
  • Heat generated by muscles from physical exertion

Risk Factors for Heat-related Illnesses

Many risk factors can increase a worker’s risk for a heat-related illness. Risk factors may be related to the work environment or characteristics of the individual worker or their current health status.

Examples of heat-related illness risk factors include:

  • High temperature and humidity
  • Direct sun exposure
  • Indoor radiant heat sources (e.g., machinery)
  • Limited air movement
  • Not drinking enough fluids to maintain hydration
  • Physical exertion
  • PPE and clothing (i.e., these may trap heat close to the body)
  • Physical condition (e.g., obesity) and health problems
  • Certain medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Lack of acclimatization (i.e., not being used to the heat)
  • Advanced age
  • Having had a previous heat-related illness

Heat-related Illnesses

Heat stroke, the most severe form of heat-related illness is a life-threatening medical emergency. As part of your heat illness prevention program, ensure that all staff is trained to recognize early signs of heat-related illness and understand the need to get prompt medical treatment to prevent heat stroke deaths.

Early signs of heat stroke may include:

  • Confusion
  • Difficulty performing routine tasks or answering simple questions (e.g., “What is today’s date?” “Where are we?”)
  • Slurred speech

Late signs of heat stroke may include:

  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Organ failure resulting in death

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