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Summertime… It’s time for fun in the sun, especially after such a brutal winter! But in addition to fun, summer often brings intense heat waves.

According to the CDC, on average, extreme heat causes more U.S. deaths than other natural disasters.  Heat safety is clearly important to keep in mind as we enjoy outdoor activities.

OutdoorWorkersBut what about those who work outside every day for their jobs? Construction workers who build and repair our homes and city buildings, landscapers who keep our properties and towns looking beautiful, lifeguards who watch our children at beaches and pools, farmworkers who grow and harvest local crops. The list goes on.

Working in extreme heat can cause many illnesses, including:

  • Heat stroke
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat cramps
  • Heat rashes

Even though Massachusetts is a northern state, we still have stretches of 90+ degree days paired with high dew points—and most of us know first-hand that “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” that makes things feel oppressive. Very humid weather also prevents the evaporation of sweat, an important way for the body to cool itself down. Every summer we see many heat-related emergency department visits and hospitalizations each year among Massachusetts workers.

But heat illness is preventable. And there are special considerations for employers of outdoor workers.

A CDC infographic, developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), outlines heat stress recommendations for employers, including the importance of acclimatizing workers to the heat.

heat stress infographic v6_013

heat stress infographic v6_013

You can view the full infographic, including a text version, on the NIOSH website.

In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers create work schedules that allow employees to have:

  • Heavy work planned for cooler parts of the day;
  • Frequent access to water;
  • Adequate rest breaks, preferably in the shade; and
  • Appropriate lightweight, light-colored clothing, to block out the sun.

Employees should also be trained in how to recognize signs of heat illness and know what to do in an emergency. These and additional recommendations are described on the OSHA Water. Rest. Shade. campaign website.

To learn more about what you can do in Massachusetts, please contact DPH’s Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation Project.

By taking steps to prevent heat illness among Massachusetts workers—and among all Massachusetts residents—we can truly enjoy all that summer has to offer.

Written By:


Health Communications Specialist in the Occupational Health and Safety Program.

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