Injuries and Illness

Do Your Workers Believe These Heat Illness Myths?

Working outdoors in the heat is extra stressful. There’s the stress from whatever work you’re doing, and then there’s the stress on your body created by the need to shed heat. Your workers may know they need to protect themselves. But some of what they’ve heard about preventing heat illness, identifying heat illness, and treating heat illness might be wrong.

Here are some heat illness myths identified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that can be real killers:

Myth #1: The difference between heat exhaustion and heatstroke is that when you’re having heatstroke, you don’t sweat.

Not true! Heatstroke victims may continue to sweat. A worker experiencing symptoms of heatstroke—confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, high body temperature—whether the person is sweating or not, is having a life-threatening emergency! Call 911, and try to cool the worker down.

Myth #2: Taking a break in air conditioning will ruin your acclimatization.

Not true! You can usually maintain your acclimatization for a few days of nonheat exposure, so taking a break in an air-conditioned area will not reduce your level of acclimatization. Air conditioning is a very effective way to cool down in a fairly short period of time, so go ahead and sit where it’s cool when you’re taking a break.

Your one-stop safety management resource, available 24/7. Go here to take a no-cost site tour or here to try it in your own office!

Myth #3: Acclimatization will protect you during a heat wave.

Not true! You become acclimatized—adjusted to hot conditions and more efficient at shedding excess heat—when you are exposed to extreme environmental conditions over a 7- to 10-day period. However, during heat waves, air temperatures rise above normal quickly, and it will take time for you to acclimatize to the new, hotter temperatures.

During a heat wave, you will need more breaks and may need to reschedule some of the harder and hotter job tasks until the heat wave passes.

Myth #4: Salt tablets are a great way to restore electrolytes lost during sweating.

Not true! Never use salt tablets unless directed by your doctor. You can easily overdose on salt with the tablets, and that can cause nausea and vomiting—which can worsen your level of dehydration. Most people can restore electrolytes through normal meals and snacks. Make sure you drink plenty of water with your meals and snacks, both to stay hydrated and to aid digestion.

Great news! BLR’s renowned® website now has even more time-saving features. Take our no-cost site tour! Or better yet, try it at no cost or obligation for a full 2 weeks.

Helping Workers Stay Cool

NIOSH and OSHA offer tools to help employers keep workers cool during the summer months:

Hydration check. NIOSH recommends that employers put urine color charts that compare the urine color of a hydrated person with that of a dehydrated person near your toilet facilities so workers can check their hydration. There are downloadable, printable charts available on the Internet. Here is one example:

Heat Safety App. OSHA offers a smartphone app, available in both English and Spanish, that workers can use to calculate the heat index at their worksite. It’s called OSHA Heat Safety Tool, and it lets workers know instantly if they are in a high-risk zone due to heat and humidity. It also indicates the necessary precautions to take. It was recently updated for iOS to be more intuitive and now includes the daily maximum temperature so that employers can plan work around the hottest part of the day, moving the most strenuous tasks to cooler hours and taking appropriate precautions when risk is highest. The new version of the iOS app offers a full screen color alert and improved navigation. The app is free and available for iPhone and Android at

Tomorrow, we’ll look at getting workers back on the job safely after they have suffered a heat-related illness.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.