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Heat Stress Guide for Employers

Important to Know:

Outdoor workers exposed to hot and humid conditions can be at risk of heat-related illness. The risk of heat-related illness becomes greater as the weather gets hotter and more humid. The combination of both air temperature and humidity affect how hot outdoor workers feel in hot-weather conditions.

Employers need to take into consideration the "heat index," which is a single value that takes both temperature and humidity into account. The higher the heat index, the hotter the weather feels. The heat index is considered a better measure than air temperature alone for estimating the risk to workers from environmental heat sources.

NOAA issues extreme-heat advisories to indicate when excessive, extended heat will occur. The advisories are based mainly on predicted heat index values:

  • Excessive Heat Outlook: issued when the potential exists for extended excessive heat (heat index of 105-110°F) over the next 3-7 days. This is a good time to check on supplies, such as extra water coolers, and refresh worker training.
  • Excessive Heat Watch: issued when excessive heat could occur within the next 24-72 hours, but the timing is uncertain.
  • Excessive Heat Warning: issued when the heat index will be high enough to be life-threatening in the next 24 hours. This warning indicates that the excessive heat is imminent or has a very high probability of occurring.
  • Excessive Heat Advisory: similar to an Excessive Heat Warning, but less serious. This is issued when the heat index could be uncomfortable or inconvenient but is not life-threatening if precautions are taken.

Know the Guidelines:

Extra measures, including implementing precautions at the appropriate risk level, are necessary for reducing the risk of heat stress for employees working outdoors in extreme heat. The employer’s response at the four risk levels is the subject of the remainder of OSHA’s guidelines. The steps employers should take in response to an elevated heat index are the same type of steps that they would follow to address other hazards in the workplace:


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