Acclimatization Key to Protecting Workers from Heat-Related Illness

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

By David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

Most Texans know the basics of summer safety. We can rattle them off as easily as our shoe size, our birthday and, hopefully, our wedding anniversary. Still, it’s easy to get complacent the longer sweltering temperatures hang around. And complacency can lead to serious heat-related illness.

If your employees work outside or in hot indoor environments, take a few minutes to promote these safety tips:

– Drink about 6 ounces of water every 15 minutes, even if you aren’t thirsty. That goes for nighttime work, as well.

– Understand how the heat index affects your body.

– Rest in the shade for at least five minutes when you need to cool down.

– Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.

– Apply wet towels or headbands to cool off.

– Watch for heat stress symptoms in your co-workers, and learn how to treat them.

– Ask your doctor if any of your medication make you more vulnerable to heat illness.

–  Ease into the heat during your first days on the job.

Employers: Allow workers to acclimatize
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently investigated 20 cases of heat-related illnesses that happened between 2012 and 2013. In 13 of the cases, the worker did not survive. Most of the fatalities happened during the first three days on the job.

OSHA’s investigation underscores the importance of allowing workers to acclimatize to the heat. Simply put, give workers time to adjust to the stress of working in hot temperatures. Acclimatization is especially important for people who are new to outdoor work, returning from more than one week off, and for all workers on the first day of a sudden heat wave.

During acclimatization, physical changes in blood vessels and sweating help the body spread heat more effectively. The process can take up to three weeks, but the first five days are the most critical.

Begin by exposing employees to 50 percent of the normal workload and time spent in the hot environment. Then, gradually build up to 100 percent by the fifth day.

Get free resources

Summer Safety Tips
Short article written by a Texas Mutual safety professional

Water. Rest. Shade.
OSHA’s annual heat safety campaign

Occupational Heat Exposure
Tips for protecting indoor workers from heat-related illnesses

Heat Safety App
Allows users to calculate the heat index, evaluate the risk and access preventive measures

Heat Stress Fact Sheet
Short training tool that includes a quiz
Download it in English or Spanish.

Casey Perkins, OSHA Austin director, explains the agency’s Water. Rest. Shade. heat safety campaign.

About the author
David Wylie is the senior technical writer at Texas Mutual Insurance Company. He works closely with Texas Mutual’s safety professionals to teach employers and their employees how to prevent workplace accidents and their associated costs. David holds the OSHA 10-hour general safety certification and a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University.

Links to and from this blog do not reflect any affiliation between Texas Mutual Insurance Company and third parties, and are not an endorsement by Texas Mutual Insurance Company of the linked sites (or their owners or operators) or of any content located there. Texas Mutual Insurance Company does not vouch for the availability or accuracy of any information contained on linked sites.

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