The agency recommends that workers drink plenty of water even when not thirsty take regular breaks, wear light clothing and adjust to the pace of the work, among other things.
A worker who begins feeling ill should stop work immediately and take steps to cool down.
"Heat stress is a serious health issue and can quickly escalate to heat stroke, which can cause death," said Steve Cant, Washington L&I's assistant director for safety and health. "Everyone who works outdoors in hot weather needs to take precautions."
To avoid heat stress illness, Washington L&I recommends that workers:
- Drink plenty of water, even when not thirsty. Sip small amounts often.
- Try to do the heaviest work during the cooler parts of the day.
- Start slower and work up to their normal pace (since adjusting to the heat takes time).
- Wear light, loose-fitting, light-colored breathable clothing such as cotton, and a hat.
- Take regular breaks in the shade.
- Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine before or during work.
- Watch co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
- In the event that they start feeling symptoms of heat stress (lightheadedness, headache, nausea, dizziness, etc.), stop what they're doing immediately and take steps to cool down. Tell a supervisor.
Some of the signs of heat stroke include no sweating; red or flushed, hot dry skin; rapid pulse; headache; blurred vision; dizziness or fainting; difficulty breathing; pinpoint pupils; unusual behavior; convulsions; and collapse.
If a worker appears to be suffering from heat stroke, get medical help immediately by calling 9-1-1.
Earlier this year, Washington L&I adopted an emergency rule that requires employers with outdoor workers to have a safety plan in place to protect workers from heat-related illness during hot weather, in addition to other rules that require employers to provide drinking water and first aid training.
Additional resources are available on the L&I Web site.