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Working in Hot Environments

Employers and workers should avoid worker exposure to extreme heat, sun exposure and high humidity when possible. When these exposures cannot be avoided, employers and workers should take steps to avoid worker heat stress.

Chart: Number and rate of heat-related deaths among crop workers, by 5-year periods, 1992-2006. 1992-1996: 14 deaths, 0.23 per 100,000; 1997-2001: 19 deaths, 0.32 per 100,000; 2002-2006: 35 deaths, 0.65 per 100,000.

Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or work in hot environments may be at risk of heat stress. Exposure to extreme heat can result in occupational illnesses and injuries. Heat stress can result in heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, or heat rashes. Heat can also increase the risk of injuries in workers as it may result in sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness.

Employers and workers should avoid worker exposure to extreme heat, sun exposure, and high humidity when possible. When these exposures cannot be avoided, employers should establish policies and practices and provide supervision so that workers take the following steps to prevent heat stress:

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton.
  • Avoid non-breathing synthetic clothing.
  • Gradually build up to heavy work.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day.
  • Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity.
  • Take breaks in the shade or a cool area when possible.
  • Drink water frequently. Drink enough water that you never become thirsty.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol, and large amounts of sugar.
  • Be aware that protective clothing or personal protective equipment may increase the risk of heat stress.
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers.

Data Source:

CDC. Heat-Related Deaths Among Crop Workers --- United States, 1992-2006. MMWR 57(24);649-653.

More Information

 

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