Heat Illness Prevention & Response
To help prevent heat illnesses, learn how to recognize symptoms and address risks of heat-induced illness, train workers to protect themselves, and respond should a heat illness emergency occur.
What is heat illness?
Heat-related illness is a serious medical condition resulting from the body’s inability to cope with a particular heat load and can progress quickly from mild symptoms to a serious and life-threatening illness. A heat-induced illness can occur when the body undergoes stress from overheating. This can be caused by exposure to environments that cause someone’s core body temperature to rise above 100.4°F. Heat illnesses include heat rash, heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Symptoms of these illnesses can be profuse sweating, dizziness, cessation of sweating, and collapse. Read more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of heat illness here.
Oregon OSHA Heat Illness Rule
The Oregon OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Standard (Fact Sheet) requires employers to implement measures to prevent heat-related illnesses when the heat index equals or exceeds 80°F in all places of employment. Oregon OSHA has determined that a workplace hazard exists whenever the heat index reaches 80°F (the “caution” level based on NOAA/NWS) and that a more serious hazard exists whenever the heat index exceeds 90°F (the “extreme caution” level based on NOAA/NWS).
Supervisors and their employees covered under this standard are responsible for understanding and complying with Reed College’s program and OR-OSHA regulations.
The procedures listed below describe the minimum prevention measures related to heat illness for Reed College employees when working within the state of Oregon. Depending on the presence of certain risk factors, greater caution and protective measures beyond what is listed here may be needed to protect employees. For all other locations, supervisors are responsible for developing work-site specific plans to be reviewed with employees prior to commencing work onsite.
Supervisors must monitor the temperatures in advance and throughout the work shift to evaluate the risk level for heat illness by one or more of the following methods:
Temperature and humidity forecasts should be compared to the NWS Heat Index.
Heat index calculator: https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/html/heatindex.shtml
Supervisors must ensure there is adequate shade when the heat index equals or exceeds 80°F. Adequate shade on campus includes nearby buildings, awnings, and tree cover. Shade must be:
- Open to the air or have mechanical ventilation for cooling.
- Located as close as practicable to where exposed employees are working.
- Large enough to allow for all your affected employees to sit.
For extended outdoor work or projects under direct sun such as field work, supervisors should provide other means of shade such as a tent or canopy (if natural shade is unavailable) to be located as close as practicable to the areas where employees are working. This shade must also have the three characteristics listed above.
Supervisors must ensure that employees must have access to an adequate supply of drinking water at all times when the heat index is at or above 80°F.
- Drinking water must be cool or cold (<77°F). Plumbed drinking water which is fresh, pure, and suitably cool, is available to campus employees at various campus hydration stations.
- For employees who do not have access to plumbed drinking water, a supply of 32 ounces of water per hour per person is required.
Supervisors must implement acclimatization practices when the heat index exceeds 80°F. Employees shall be closely monitored by a supervisor or designee during the acclimatization period. The following acclimatization plan has been developed by NIOSH and should be used to help ensure employees are accustomed to working in high heat. Please read the NIOSH recommendations for acclimating employees and maintaining acclimatization for more information.
Acclimatization planGradually increase exposure time in hot environmental conditions over a period of 7 to 14 days.
- For new workers, the schedule should be no more than 20% of the usual duration of work in the hot environment on day 1 and a no more than 20% increase on each additional day.
- For workers who have had previous experience with the job, the acclimatization regimen should be no more than 50% of the usual duration of work in the hot environment on day 1, 60% on day 2, 80% on day 3, and 100% on day 4.
- The time required for non-physically fit individuals do develop acclimatization is about 50% greater than for the physically fit.
Supervisors must implement the following high-heat practices when the heat index exceeds 90°F:
- Ensure effective communication between each employee and their supervisor is maintained so that an employee can report concerns. Cell phones and text messaging are adequate for this purpose as long as there is reliable cell phone reception.
- Implement a buddy system, avoid working alone, if possible. If working alone is unavoidable, the supervisor must have regular communication with employees working alone.
- Ensure that employees are observed for alertness and signs and symptoms of heat illness and monitored to determine whether medical attention is necessary. Read more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment of heat illness here.
- Develop and implement an emergency medical plan and practices to gradually adapt employees to working in the heat. This may include scheduling high heat illness risk tasks at cooler times or days.
- Provide heat illness prevention rest breaks. These breaks apply to employees working outside or inside areas without mechanical ventilation. We recognize that each department will have different needs depending on the nature of their work; supervisors will have the ability to alter rest periods based on need. A simplified version of a rest break schedule is below which is based off of the heaviest workload calculation (i.e. very heavy work such as climbing stairs, sledgehammer use, stacking concrete). More information regarding rest break schedules can be found within the Oregon OSHA final rule.
Heat Index (°F)
Rest Break Duration and Intervals
90 or greater
10 minutes every 2 hours
95 or greater
20 minutes every hour
100 or greater
30 minutes every hour
105 or greater
40 minutes every hour
Emergency Medical Plan
When the heat index exceeds 90°F, effective communication must be maintained at the work site so that employees can contact a supervisor or emergency services when necessary. A cellphone or other electronic device may be used for this purpose if reception in the area is reliable.
Employees experiencing heat illness symptoms must be monitored and shall not be sent home without being offered on-site first aid to reduce body temperature. If there are signs or symptoms of severe heat illness, or heat stroke, the following emergency response procedures must be implemented:
- Take appropriate action depending on illness severity.
- In an emergency situation, call 911 and contact Community Safety (503-788-6666). When in doubt, call 911!
- Tell the dispatcher this is a heat-related illness and provide clear and precise directions to the location.
- Administer appropriate first aid until medical responders arrive.
- While waiting for medical personnel, if it is safe to do so:
- Move the person to a cool shaded area.
- Loosen or remove heavy clothing.
- Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink.
- Fan and mist the person with water.
- Notify your supervisor and report the incident to HR as soon as possible.
If not in close proximity to emergency medical services (i.e. when conducting off campus field work), employees must:
- Have a two-way radio or equivalent communication method such as a cell phone that has reliable cell phone reception.
- Have knowledge of a location where emergency medical services can be met.
- Have awareness of other employees on the field work team that are trained in first aid.