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Rising Temperatures, Rising Dangers: Mitigating the Dangers of Extreme Heat

By Alliant

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Heat is a silent and deadly force that can push the human body beyond its limits. When faced with extreme heat and high humidity, the body's natural cooling mechanism through evaporation becomes less effective, putting a strain on the body's ability to regulate temperature. Tragically, each year, around 700 Americans lose their lives as a result of the unforgiving demands of extreme heat. It is crucial to recognize the severity of this issue and take necessary precautions to protect ourselves and others from the potentially fatal consequences of extreme heat.

Heat disorders primarily arise when individuals are exposed to excessive heat or engage in vigorous physical activity beyond their age and physical capabilities. Certain populations, such as older adults, young children, and individuals who are ill or overweight, are more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme heat. Heat-related illnesses can be triggered by stagnant atmospheric conditions and poor air quality. Consequently, urban dwellers may face higher risks during prolonged heatwaves compared to their rural counterparts. The thermal properties of asphalt and concrete cause them to retain and gradually release heat, leading to elevated nighttime temperatures, further amplifying the risks associated with heat-related ailments.

When a heat wave strikes, characterized by prolonged periods of scorching temperatures and high humidity, it's crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being. Failure to take the necessary precautions can expose you to severe risks, including life-threatening situations. To ensure you're well-prepared for extreme heat, here are some essential guidelines to keep in mind.

To prepare for extreme heat, do the following:

  • Monitor heat conditions: Keep a close eye on weather forecasts and heat index values to stay informed about upcoming heat waves or extreme heat conditions. Stay in touch with local authorities for any heat-related advisories or warnings.

  • Create an extreme heat policy: Develop a clear and comprehensive policy that outlines the measures to be taken during extreme heat conditions. Communicate this policy to all employees and ensure they understand the guidelines and expectations.

  • Provide education and training: Conduct training sessions to educate employees about the risks associated with extreme heat and the importance of heat safety measures. Train them on recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses and how to respond in such situations.

  • Implement a heat safety plan: Develop a detailed heat safety plan that includes specific actions to be taken during extreme heat events. This may include adjusting work schedules to avoid the hottest times of the day, providing additional breaks, and encouraging hydration.

  • Improve ventilation and cooling systems: Ensure that the workplace has adequate ventilation and cooling systems in place. Regularly maintain and service air conditioning units to ensure their optimal functionality during hot periods.

  • Encourage proper hydration: Promote hydration among employees by providing access to clean drinking water and encouraging regular water breaks. Consider providing electrolyte-rich drinks or access to hydration stations, especially for employees working outdoors.

  • Modify work practices: Modify work practices to reduce heat exposure. This can include rescheduling outdoor work to cooler times of the day, providing shaded areas or tents for breaks, and rotating job tasks to minimize prolonged exposure to heat.

  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE): If employees are required to wear personal protective equipment, ensure that it is appropriate for hot conditions. Look for breathable and lightweight options that still provide the necessary protection.

  • Encourage open communication: Create a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable reporting any concerns related to extreme heat. Encourage them to notify supervisors or managers if they experience symptoms of heat-related illnesses.

  • Lead by example: Demonstrate your commitment to employee safety by following heat safety measures yourself. When employees see leaders taking heat precautions seriously, it reinforces the importance of these practices.


Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify an extreme heat hazard:

  • Heat wave—This is a prolonged period of excessive heat, often combined with excessive humidity.

  • Heat index—This number explains how hot it feels when relative humidity is added to the air temperature. Exposure to full sunshine can increase the heat index by 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Heat cramps—This refers to muscular pains due to heavy exertion. Although heat cramps are the least severe heat-related illness, they are often the first signal that your body is having trouble with the heat.

  • Heat exhaustion—This condition typically occurs when people exercise heavily or work in a hot, humid place where body fluids are lost through heavy sweating. Blood flow to the skin increases, causing blood flow to decrease to the vital organs. This results in a form of mild shock. If not treated, the victim's condition will worsen. Body temperature will keep rising and the victim may suffer heat stroke.

  • Heat stroke—This is a life-threatening condition in which the victim's temperature control system, which produces sweating to cool the body, stops working. A victim of heat stroke’s body temperature can rise so high that brain damage and death may result if their body is not cooled quickly.

  • Excessive heat watch—Such a watch occurs when conditions are favorable for an excessive heat event to meet or exceed local excessive heat warning criteria in the next 24 to 72 hours.

  • Heat advisory—This occurs when heat index values are forecast to meet locally defined advisory criteria for one to two days (e.g., when daytime highs reach 100-105 degrees Fahrenheit).

  • Excessive heat warning—Such a warning occurs when heat index values are forecast to meet or exceed locally defined warning criteria for at least two days (e.g., when daytime highs reach 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit)


Contact your Alliant producer to help your business prepare for the unexpected. Visit Alliant Safety & Loss Control for more information. 

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Alliant note and disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal advice or legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal advisor or ask Alliant Insurance Services for a referral. This document is  provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this document.