Workers should be aware of the many factors that can impact the risk of heat illness. (This comes straight off a PDF from the CDC.)
Please note, workers can also be affected by many risk factors at the same time, too.
Risk Factor: Dehydration
One of the MOST IMPORTANT risk factors.
Risk Factor: Environment
- High temperatures, especially with high humidity, which makes sweating less effective.
- Direct sun exposure
- Lack of wind or breeze to cool the body; however, when ambient conditions are higher than body temperature, warm airflow canincrease heat gain
- Proximity to engines or other hot equipment
Risk Factor: Activities
- High exertion
- Not enough rest breaks
- Repeated strenuous days in the heart
- High motivation to push through discomfort from heat strain.
Risk Factor: No Acclimatization
- New employees
- Experienced employees returning from time away from the heat
- Acclimatized workers who experience a sudden change in worksite temperature, such as heat waves or mining in a new area
Risk Factor: Medications
Heat tolerance can be affected by medications taken for:
- Cold, allergies, and congestion
- Muscle spasms
- Blood pressure
- Urine production (diuretics)
- Psychosis / Depression
Risk Factor: Prior Heat Illness
Increases the risk of heat illness in the future
Risk Factor: Health Conditions
- Short-term illnesses, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or respiratory infections
- Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease
- Being overweight or obese
- Poor physical fitness
Risk Factor: Other Factors
- Age of 60
- Non-breathable clothing or personal protective equipment
- Alcohol use in the past 24 hours
Points to Remember
• Acclimatization is critical – this is a major factor in heat-related deaths on the job.
• Hydration is critical
• A recent illness can temporarily lower your heat tolerance
Be aware of other personal risk factors for heat illness.