How Facility Managers Can Keep Crews Cool When Working in Extreme Heat

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Meteorology experts at The Weather Channel are forecasting warmer than average temperatures across much of the U.S. this summer. This is worth noting because thousands of workers become ill, and dozens die, while working in extreme heat or humid conditions each year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Heat illnesses can affect anyone, regardless of age, physical condition, or exposure time.


Overexposure to heat can happen either indoors or outdoors. And, if the conditions are right, it can occur during any season – not just summer heat waves. Still, as temperatures begin to rise this summer, the KBS Health and Safety team believes it is essential for both facility managers and their crew members to follow best safety practices that can prevent heat-related illnesses.

KBS advises facility managers to focus on the OSHA guidelines of providing water, rest, and shade for their crews when they face extreme heat this summer:

  • Drink water regularly (one cup every 20 minutes, even if you are not thirsty) and avoid alcohol or liquids with substantial amounts of sugar

  • Ask if you can schedule more labor-intensive tasks for earlier or later in the day to avoid heat

  • Wear a brimmed hat and loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing

  • Take breaks more frequently

  • Spend time in air-conditioned buildings during breaks and after work; encourage co-workers to do the same

Facility managers can also remind team members how to protect themselves from the dangers of outdoor and indoor heat exposure by printing and displaying OSHA’s “Prevent Heat Illness at Work” poster in either English or Spanish.

Warning Signs

Facility managers should also understand that, as OSHA notes, 50% to 70% of outdoor fatalities occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments. This happens because the body needs to build a heat tolerance (“heat acclimatization”) gradually over time but is often unable to do so. Amid such heat, the human body can lose too much water and salt – usually due to sweating – and become vulnerable to heat exhaustion and/or heat stroke. Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches, dizziness, or fainting

  • Fatigue, weakness, or exhaustion

  • Rapid heart rate or rapid breathing

  • Body temperature over 103°F

  • Convulsions or unresponsiveness

What to Do in Case of an Emergency

KBS recommends taking the following actions if you see someone suffering from either heat exhaustion or heat stroke:

  • Move to a shaded or air-conditioned area

  • Remove unnecessary clothing

  • Provide cold water or another cool, non-alcoholic beverage

  • Apply cold, wet towels or, if needed, have the victim take a cool shower

  • If necessary, call 911

Working in very warm conditions is sometimes necessary, especially in the summer, but it does not have to be harmful. By following the guidelines listed above, facility managers can raise awareness about – and prevent – heat illnesses and injuries among their teams and themselves. That goes a long way toward maintaining safety, which is always priority number one.