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June 30, 2023

Summer Scorcher: Protecting Your Employees from Extreme Heat

A heat wave policy can help your organization manage the health risks posed by sweltering temperatures.

As triple digit temperatures blanket large parts of the country this week, employers are taking action to protect the well-being and safety of their employees. The CDC Health & Heat Tracker map shows the extent and severity of the current heat crisis. These data display the rate of emergency department (ED) visits associated with heat-related illness, or HRI, per 100,000 ED visits by region.

CDC Heat & Health Tracker

Extreme temperatures can pose significant health risks, making it crucial for businesses to develop and implement effective heat wave policies. If your organization doesn’t already have a heat wave policy in place, here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Research Regulations and Guidelines.
    Familiarize yourself with local, regional, and national regulations on heat wave safety to ensure compliance.

  2. Establish Temperature Thresholds.
    Define temperature thresholds that trigger your heat wave policy. Consider factors like humidity and heat index in addition to ambient temperature, and determine when work schedule adjustments and other measures will be initiated.

  3. Adjust Work Schedules.
    During heat waves, consider flexible work schedules that allow employees to start earlier or finish later to avoid peak heat hours. You can also consider reduced working hours or alternate shifts, if feasible.

  4. Provide Breaks and Rest Periods.
    Specify the frequency and duration of breaks for employees to cool down and hydrate. Make sure you designate areas where employees can find relief from the heat, such as air-conditioned spaces or shaded spots.

  5. Promote Hydration.
    Provide access to clean and cool drinking water throughout the workplace, and encourage employees to drink water frequently. You may want to consider providing alternative beverages with electrolytes.

  6. Educate and Train.
    Help your colleagues prepare for heat waves by conducting training sessions to raise awareness of heat-related illnesses, symptoms, preventive measures and first aid. Encourage employees to report concerns promptly and ensure they understand the importance of the heat wave policy.

Remember: During heat waves, outdoor workers and employees engaged in physically demanding jobs are at higher risk due to direct sun exposure and the combination of exertion and heat stress. Additionally, vulnerable populations such as elderly employees, those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women and individuals on certain medications should be given special consideration and targeted protection measures.

The Bottom Line: This week’s record temperatures are a great reminder that employers need to prepare for extreme weather events. If you don’t have a heat wave policy in place, now is a great time to get started.

Stay cool, stay hydrated and be safe!

Need Help?

Looking for support to build your organization’s heat wave policy? Email us at to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.

Tips to Share?

Have a great heat wave policy or program in place that you’d like to share with others in our network? We’d love to hear from you!

Additional Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Occupational Safety & Health Administration

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