Don’t get burned: How to keep your employees safe in the heat

Don’t get burned: How to keep your employees safe in the heat

By Karl Lehman
Senior Loss Control Specialist
Pacific Compensation Insurance Company

It’s hot out there. High summertime temperatures aren’t just uncomfortable -- they can be downright dangerous. According to the National Weather Service, the U.S. is experiencing temperatures 20-30 degrees above average, breaking records across the west. This extreme weather is proving deadly for some, with the Centers for Disease Control reporting that nearly 660 people succumb to extreme heat each year. 

The good news for employers is that the majority of heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. The following measures can help protect your employees from the potential dangers of high temperatures throughout the summer.

Provide access to water 
This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to note that it’s your responsibility to make potable water available at no cost to your employees. You should plan to have enough cool drinking water on hand to provide each employee with one quart per hour for their entire shift. Make sure the water is readily accessible to your workers, and remind them to drink it frequently -- before they get thirsty. 

Create shady areas
If you have employees working outside during the heat of summer, it’s essential to offer areas of shade -- whether it’s natural or manmade -- to provide them with a place to cool down. Preventative cool-down rest in the shade can help prevent heat illness. Make sure your shady area is large enough to accommodate the number of employees you have during recovery or rest periods, as well as during the meal period for those who remain on site. 

Monitor the weather, and acclimatize employees
Make sure your supervisors are tracking weather for their job sites. When higher-than-normal temperatures are predicted, take extra measures to protect your employees by helping them get acclimated to the increased heat. This ranges from offering additional water and shade breaks to modifying work schedules.

Plan ahead for heat
To protect your employees, you should have a written heat illness prevention plan, which should include procedures for how supervisors should:

  • Provide access to water and shade
  • Monitor the weather
  • Institute high heat protocol
  • Address acclimatization methods and procedures to help employees gradually adjust to working in the heat
  • Respond to heat illnesses, provide first aid and access emergency services
  • Provide clear and precise directions to the worksite

Train your team thoroughly
Once you establish a heat illness prevention plan, be sure to share it with your employees. Maintain these procedures at the worksite so employees and OSHA representatives can view them whenever they’d like. It’s important to make your plan available in both English and any other languages spoken by your workforce. 

A critical part of preparing your employees for summer temperatures is to train them how to identify signs of heat-related illness. These include muscle cramping, fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, confusion, lack of sweating or more. If you have a large crew, implement a mandatory buddy system so your employees can help monitor each other.

In case of heat-related emergency, designate one or more employees to call for emergency services, and empower other employees to call for emergency services when no designated employee is available.    

Taking these simple measures to protect your employees from the heat can save lives. 


Founded in 1925, CopperPoint Insurance Companies is a leading provider of workers’ compensation and commercial insurance solutions operating in six southwestern states. To learn more about our insurance products and find resources to better manage your risks, explore our website or contact your independent insurance agent.


Karl LehmanKarl Lehman
Senior Loss Control Specialist
Pacific Compensation Insurance Company

As a Senior Loss Control Consultant, Karl has 30 years of experience in Loss Control/Risk Management with insurance carriers in all lines of coverage and industries including hospitality, wholesale, retail, automotive and industrial manufacturing.