4 Steps to Protect Employees in Excessive Heat

Federal safety authorities are advising employers to follow common-sense practices, precautions
grocery pickup
Photograph: Shutterstock

More than a dozen states were under heat alerts this past weekend, and while much of the nation is seeing a reprieve, the high temps are only continuing in states such as Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

It’s an important reminder for all employers—including grocers with employees working outside as cart attendants or fulfilling pickup orders—to protect their employers from heat-related illnesses. As such, the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) is urging employers to follow its revised guidelines for protecting workers from heat illness.

The workplace safety watchdog is reminding all employers that they have a responsibility to shield their staffs. It recommends that they follow a combination of the agency’s four common sense practices and precautions tailored to a workplace.

The fundamentals, it says, are these four steps:

  • Make sure the staff has access to water and shade, and that they take cool-down breaks.
  • Enable workers to build up a tolerance to the heat. That process could involve permitting more numerous breaks.
  • Monitor the staff for signs of heat illness. Those indicators can include headaches, dizziness, slurred speech, abnormal behavior or the airing of unusual thoughts. If the employee stops sweating despite the heat, or if they report a drop in their urine output, aid should be sought immediately.
  • Teach employees how to protect themselves and otherwise have a plan ready to deal with the extraordinary situation.

OSHA also advises businesses to develop a plan for dealing with excessive heat and have first aid protocols in place.

Employees are advised to protect themselves by drinking at least a cup of cool water every 20 minutes even if they’re not thirsty. 

If the worker is sweating excessively, or is exposed to a hot situation for a long stretch, drinks containing electrolytes are recommended. But energy drinks and alcohol beverages should be avoided.

The best initial treatment is trying to cool down the worker with water, ice, shade and a fan and air conditioning.

More information is available from OSHA’s webpage on the workplace dangers of heat.

A version of this story appeared on WGB’s sister site,




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