Staying Safe in Extreme Heat

Here are some tips for how to make sure you and those around you don’t get sick during hot temperatures.

With the extremely hot temperatures Oregon has seen this summer, it’s important to know to stay safe.

Here are some tips for tracking the heat in your area and making sure you and your co-workers don’t get ill.

Heat Guidance

This guidance applies both indoors and outdoors. People can still get heat-related illnesses inside if they do not have access to cooler air and water.

Heat Index

Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division (OSHA) says that when the heat index reaches 80 degrees, employers must provide access to shade and drinking water.

This is especially true in places where people are not accustomed to high temperatures.

How to Find the Heat Index

When the Heat Index Reaches 80 Degrees Fahrenheit

  • Water: Must be free and easily accessible. Enough water must be available for each person to have 32 ounces per hour. The water must be under 77 degrees, and you must provide lots of opportunities for water breaks.
  • Shade: Must be provided as close as practical to working or youth outdoor activity areas and either be open to the air or mechanical cooling. The shaded area needs to be large enough to accommodate all employees or youth during breaks.

When the Heat Index Reaches 90 Degrees Fahrenheit

Employers must do these things:

  • Provide a shaded 10-minute rest period for every two hours of work outside. 
  • Ensure employees or youth can effectively report concerns about the heat and their health.
  • Monitor all employees and youth for signs and symptoms of heat illness.
  • Create two plans: one that allows employees and youth to gradually adapt to working in the heat, and one to deal with heat-related medical emergencies.

Heat Index

Heat stress table showing when extreme danger or caution is needed based on air temperatures and humidity

Source: Oregon Occupational Safety & Health Division

Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat Rash

This is the most common health issue in hot environments. It’s caused by sweating and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It usually happens on parts of the body that overlap or rub other parts of the body.

If you, a co-worker, or a youth have symptoms of heat rash, move to a cooler, less-humid work environment, if possible. Keep the rash area dry and do not use ointments or creams that make the skin warm or moist, which can make the rash worse.

Heat Exhaustion

What Happens to the Body

Headaches, dizziness or light-headedness, weakness, mood changes, irritability or confusion, feeling sick to your stomach, vomiting, fainting, decreased or dark-colored urine, and pale, clammy skin.

What Should Be Done

  • Move to a cool, shaded area. Do not be alone. If you are dizzy or light-headed, lay on your back and raise your legs about 6-8 inches. If you are sick to your stomach, lay on your side.
  • Loosen and remove heavy clothing.
  • Drink cool water (a small cup every 15 minutes) if you are not feeling sick to your stomach.
  • Fan yourself to cool off. Cool your skin with a cool spray mist of water or wet cloth.
  • If you do not feel better in a few minutes, call for emergency help. If heat exhaustion is not treated, it may advance to heat stroke.

Heat Stroke – A Medical Emergency

What Happens to the Body

Dry, pale skin (no sweating); hot, red skin (looks like a sunburn); mood changes; irritability, confusion and not making any sense; seizures or fits; collapse (will not respond)

What Should Be Done

  • Call for emergency help immediately.
  • Move the person to a cool, shaded area. Don’t leave them alone. Lay them on their back and if they are having seizures, remove objects close to them. If they are sick to their stomach, lay them on their side.
  • Remove heavy and outer clothing.
  • Have the person drink cool water (a small cup every 15 minutes) if they are alert enough to drink and are not feeling sick to their stomach.
  • Fan them to cool them off. Cool their skin with a cool spray mist of water, wet cloth, or wet sheet.
  • If ice is available, place ice packs in their armpits and groin area.

How to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses

  • Take frequent water breaks and rest periods in shaded, cooler, or air-conditioned recovery areas.
  • Frequently drink small amounts of water before you become thirsty. During moderate activity, in moderately hot conditions, drink about 8 ounces of liquid every 15 to 20 minutes. Remember: drinking extreme amounts of water — more than 12 quarts in a 24-hour period — can be harmful.
  • Monitor your hydration by watching your urine — it should be clear or slightly colored. Dark urine is a warning sign that you are not getting enough water!
  • Pace yourself. Cut down on exercise during the heat, and only pick up the pace gradually. 
  • Have a buddy system where people encourage each other to drink water, use shade to stay cool, and watch each other for symptoms of illness.
  • Monitor daily weather reports and reschedule jobs or outdoor activities to cooler times of the day, if possible. Schedule routine maintenance and repair projects for cooler parts of the day or the year, if possible.
  • Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks.
  • Report it immediately if you, your co-workers or a youth show symptoms of heat-related illness.

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