Hot Weather Ahead: Take Precautions

Jul 6, 2012, 7:59 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

“Record-breaking heat will continue to make headlines” is how the National Weather Service began its forecast for the weekend and into next week. So it’s a good time for a reminder about taking hot weather precautions, especially for outdoor workers, in this blistering weather.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is continuing the campaign it began last year to help protect outdoor workers in extremely hot weather. In 2011, 30 workers died of heat-related causes and thousands became ill. Each year tens of consumers die of heat-related illnesses.

OSHA maintains a frequently updated website as part of its outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of working outdoors in hot weather. Resources include training tools and posters for employers and many are aimed at workers with limited English proficiency.

OSHA is also partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on weather service alerts. NOAA’s Heat Watch page now includes worker safety precautions when extreme heat alerts are issued.

Drinking water often, taking breaks and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness for outdoor workers and anyone else spending time in the heat.

Watch a video with David Michaels, PhD, MPH, Department of Labor Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health, on protecting workers working during extreme heat.

And the hot temperatures around the country beg precautions by non-workers as well.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds people that during high humidity sweat does not evaporate as quickly, which can keep your body from releasing heat as fast as it may need to. In addition, age, obesity, fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn and prescription drug and alcohol use can interfere with sweating and being able to cool off in very hot water. Not cooling off can cause body temperature to rise and can result in severe illness and even death.

Pay attention to these precautions:

  • Stay in an air-conditioned indoor location.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing and sunscreen.
  • Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor and have someone do the same for you.
  • Do not leave children in cars.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates.

>>Bonus Link: Read a CDC Frequently Asked Questions page about extreme heat.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.