Know the Warning Signs of Heat Stress

Employees should work with their supervisors to develop a work/rest regimen based on heat and humidity levels.

July 3, 2020

You are working outside on a hot, humid day, when suddenly – it hits. You develop a headache, begin to feel dizzy, start sweating profusely, and feel very thirsty. These are the warning signs of the onset of heat stress illness.

“If you develop any of these symptoms, secure your work and stop what you are doing. Find a cool place to rest and drink plenty of fluids,” said Laura Redenshek, director, FEU Safety & Human Performance. “It’s important to stay properly hydrated during hot days, and don’t be afraid to ask one of your coworkers for help if you don’t feel well and require assistance.”

As temperatures rise during the summer months, her​e are steps everyone can take to help prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of water or fluids high in electrolytes (e.g., Gatorade, Sqwincher) to remain properly hydrated.
  • Wear light-colored clothing to help repel heat from the sun.
  • Pace yourself during strenuous work activities in high heat.

“Employees should work with their supervisors to develop a work/rest regimen based on heat and humidity levels,” continued Laura. “Waiting until after you feel ill or thirsty to rest and drink fluids is too late – prevention is key.”

The Heat is On

To calculate a heat index number for outdoor work, go to feweather.fenetw​ and follow these steps:

  • Click on the menu icon (in the top left-hand corner) to display the navigation bar
  • Access the Forecast tab
  • Click on “Temperature Related”
  • Click on “Heat Index,” then select an operating company from the drop-down list

Check the Index

If you work outdoors, another helpful tip is to monitor the heat index in your area. To plan for high-heat days, FEU Safety & Human Performance encourages work groups to use the forecasting tool on the FirstEnergy Weather Portal (see boxed instructions for access and use). The tool calculates a heat index number that can be compared to the Heat Index chart (see below) to determine days/times when conditions could be hazardous.

Employees who work in power plants and other high-heat indoor settings should follow FirstEnergy’s corporate Heat Stress Program and the Humidex Chart – or other equivalent heat stress index – for work/rest recommendations.

“We typically see a spike in employee injuries during the summer months, so we need everyone to refocus on being aware of their work environment – and that includes temperature and humidity,” added Laura. “Knowing when high-heat days are forecast can enable work groups to schedule physically demanding jobs early or late in the day when temperatures are lower. It’s another proactive measure we are using to help reduce exposure for employees and eliminate life-changing events.”

The Heat Index combines air temperature and relative humidity to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature – basically how hot it feels.