Combating Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

July 27, 2023

Understand the dangers of heat exhaustion and heatstroke while creating a proactive plan for your employees.

Combating Heat Exhaustion and Heatstroke

2023 is already gearing up to match the record-breaking year of 2021 for the hottest summer to date. Summer is not over yet, which means outdoor workers need to be ready for higher temperatures. This includes knowing the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke, along with what steps to take when symptoms are displayed.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious conditions that can be fatal if not treated promptly. To ensure safety, it is important to implement best practices such as monitoring the duration of employees’ exposure to heat, promoting hydration and minimizing exposure to direct sunlight.  

Humidity is an additional concern, especially for those in the Midwest. High humidity slows sweat evaporation from workers’ skin and can make the rising temperatures feel even worse. For employees who work in outdoor environments, 50% to 70% can become sick from heat exposure within the first few days because their bodies have not built tolerance to the heat.

Employers need to have training in place for supervisors and employees, so they are able to recognize symptoms and know what steps to take in case of heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Heat exhaustion symptoms

  • Cool, moist skin
  • Heavy sweating
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramping
  • Irritability
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Dizziness

Managing possible heat exhaustion

  • Move to an air-conditioned location
  • Cold compresses or cold shower
  • Remove tight/restrictive/additional layers of clothing including shoes and socks
  • Drink plenty of fluids

Heatstroke symptoms

  • Headache
  • Confusion, slurred speech
  • No longer sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Red, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Very high body temperature

Managing possible heatstroke

  • Call emergency services (911)
  • Move to a cooler location
  • Use cold compresses on the neck, head, armpits and groin
  • Do not give fluids

While understanding symptoms and what steps to take in cases of a stroke and exhaustion are important, companies should also be proactive when combating heat.

Another way to help keep your employees safe is utilizing a heat index monitoring software. The CDC offers the OSHA-NIOSH Heat Safety Tool app, available on Android and iOS app stores. This app not only provides heat index information but also offers precautionary recommendations, visual heat indicators, hourly forecasts, risk levels and recommendations for outdoor work activities.

By becoming proactive and protecting your team with essential resources, you will never have to compromise their well-being on the job.

About The Author

Aaron Paris, CSP, ASP

Aaron Paris, CSP, ASP
Email As the Director of Safety, Property & Casualty, Aaron has more than six years of experience in workplace safety and 12 years in law enforcement. Aaron consults with clients on a wide variety of safety issues such as worker safety, auto, property risk and other safety procedures. He is also authorized to teach OSHA 10- and 30- hour courses.