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Heat Precautions


City Risk LogoOccupational Health & Infectious Disease                                                               

                        Risk Management, Portland, OR 

Updated 5/31/16                    Originally issued July 22, 2009 and had been regularly updated.                 

Summer has finally arrived in the northwest. So it is time to take some extra precautions for City employees who work outdoors. Intense heat can create serious health problems. Humans can acclimatize to the heat. But it takes about a week for our bodies to adjust. Temperatures above 90o seldom persist in Portland long enough for people to truly "get used to the heat." 

In most cases, City employees must continue to provide essential services, regardless of the weather.  In those cases, it is prudent for bureaus to adjust work requirements and take preventive action to help employees avoid heat related injury or illness. 

Your bureau may already have a plan for working in hot weather - as high temperatures persist prepare to activate it. 

   Check for any collective bargaining requirements.

   First Aid trained staff, be on alert!

   Crew supervisors, be aware of the potential for heat related illness or injury.

   Safety Managers be available to answer questions. Involve BHR if needed.  

For employees who must do strenuous work, work outdoors, wear protective clothing or use respirators during this heat spell, consider:

  • Assuring ample supplies of fresh water be readily available throughout the work day.
  • Rescheduling, if possible, particularly hard physical tasks.
  • Providing sunscreen to be reapplied throughout the day.
  • Checking on outdoor crews doing physical work every 2 hours. At each check: Remind employees to drink water and rest out of the sun. Ask each crew member how they feel. Keep a log. 

For employees doing light work in non-air conditioned environments, consider:

  • Assuring ample supplies of fresh water be readily available throughout the work day.
  • Rescheduling, if possible, particularly hard physical tasks.
  • Relaxing dress codes.
  • Increasing air movement by opening windows and using fans. 

Watch for early signs of heat related illness!

If employees show signs of heat related injury take immediate first aid action:

  • Get the person out of the sun, into a cooler environment.
  • Rehydrate with plain water.
  • Allow the person to rest until signs and symptoms subside. 

If needed, activate your emergency medical plan. 

All employees: prepare yourself and family for the hot temperatures that are predicted. Remember, elderly persons, small children, and those with chronic health issues are particularly susceptible to heat reactions.

  • Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
  • Never leave anyone (including animals) in an enclosed vehicle, even with the windows partially open.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Start drinking fluids at least 30 minutes before going out.
  • Avoid beverages with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar because these can actually result in the loss of body fluid.
  • Eat smaller meals, more often, but be sure meals are well balanced, cool and light.
  • Take frequent breaks when working or recreating outside.
  • Wear sunscreen SPF 15 or higher, wide-brimmed hats and light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.
  • Dress infants and children in cool, loose clothing. Shade their heads and faces with hats or an umbrella. Use sunscreen as directed on small children!
  • Consult your health care provider about the added effects of sun and heat when taking prescription drugs, especially diuretics, antihistamines and antidepressants.
  • Check on your animals frequently to ensure they are not suffering from the heat, have water and shade.

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