Working in the Heat


LOS ANGELES, CA — A heat wave is moving into Southern California, with forecasters saying near triple-digit temperatures are on the horizon in Los Angeles.

The heat is expected to linger through the weekend and into early next week, bringing with it elevated fire danger. By Friday and Saturday, highs in the Valleys will reach the upper and mid-90s, while the coast is expected to stay in the upper 70s and low 80s.

The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn’t enough. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if you don’t drink enough water and rest in the shade. You can suffer from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job. Heat illnesses and deaths are preventable.

People suffer heat-related illness when their bodies are unable to compensate and properly cool themselves. The body normally cools itself by sweating. But under some conditions, sweating just isn’t enough. In such cases, a person’s body temperature rises rapidly. Very high body temperatures may damage the brain or other vital organs.

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

Employers should:

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

NIOSH has published tips for preventing heat-related illness.