Preventing and Responding to Heat Illness
When working in warm or hot weather an effective communication system is a
critical part of your program to be successful in preventing heat illness. This
is because as temperatures increase and other environmental factors change
throughout the workday, employees’ physical and/or mental state can rapidly
change into a serious medical condition. Therefore it is important that you stay
alert to the weather and with employees input from the field use this
information to quickly make the proper adjustments in your work practices and
activities, or summon emergency response personnel if necessary. The goal is to
make appropriate adjustments in work practices and activities before problems
arise or become serious or summon help if it is needed. In order to do this you
need to implement an effective communication system to contact employees and
supervisors in the workplace.
Some "tools" for effective real time communication in remote locations
include the use of cell phones, walkie-talkies, two way radios, satellite
phones, and other devices. Employees and supervisors need to be fully trained on
how to use your communication system to prevent heat illness.
During warm or hot weather and high heat it is necessary for supervisors and
employees to be attentive to each other and communicate on a frequent basis
about how they are feeling. It is important to encourage employees not to
discount any discomfort or symptoms they are experiencing and to report these
problems immediately to their supervisor and coworkers. Employees and
supervisors should be fully trained on the prevention of heat illness.
Using an effective communication system allows employees to report to
supervisors, co-workers or other designated persons how they are feeling on a
real time basis. Some practical suggestions include:
- Designate a person(s) to closely monitor and frequently report on
employees’ physical and mental condition.
- Using a "buddy system" so that supervisors or a designated person(s) and coworkers can watch each other closely for discomfort or symptoms of heat illness. Are employees looking and acting normal throughout the work shift?
- Accounting for the whereabouts of your crew at appropriate intervals throughout the work shift and at the end of the work shift (e.g., keep a log of employees on your work crews including their names, supervisors, work locations, and hours worked on a given day, etc.)
- Ensuring that employees who work alone have a special system to monitor them closely by having them “check-in” periodically and account for their whereabouts (e.g., procedures to follow and a reliable means of communication for employees and supervisors to use)
- Holding short, frequent meetings (e.g., before and during work)
- Having frequent "check-ins" by the "designated person(s)" and supervisors
Remember that during high heat, heat illness can develop even faster and
effective communication becomes even more important (see
High Heat Procedures).