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As it gets hotter, how can workers best protect themselves from heat stress?

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Dangerous heat exposure can occur indoors or outdoors. There are a range of heat illnesses, and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition. Almost 75% of heat illness fatalities happen during the first week of work. By taking frequent breaks and working shorter shifts, workers can build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. The process of building tolerance is called heat acclimatization. Lack of acclimatization represents a major risk factor for fatal outcomes. Safe work practices include:

20% rule: On the first day in a hot environment, limit time working during the hottest part of day to 20% of the shift and increase by up to 20% a day until acclimated to the heat.

Drink cool water: Drink at least one cup every 20 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.

Rest breaks: Take time to recover from heat in a shady or cool location.

Dress for the heat: Wear a hat and light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing, if possible.

Watch out for each other: Monitor yourselves and one another for signs of heat illness. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related health problem. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulating system fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that may rapidly result in death. Confusion, slurred speech or unconsciousness are signs of heat stroke. When these types of symptoms are present, call 911 immediately, and cool the worker with ice or cold water until help arrives. Act quickly! When in doubt, call 911. Visit for more heat safety resources. 



Meet the Expert

Miles Boyer is the Springfield Office Manager for The Builders' Association, which is a nonprofit commercial construction trade association serving hundreds of member companies that employ over 25,000 people in mid-America. Founded in 1887, The Builders’ Association has advanced the construction industry by delivering safety, craft and management training; employment, labor and government relations; and construction plans and technology tools.

Four service and training centers operate in Kansas City, Jefferson City and Springfield to serve both union and nonunion member companies and to aid collaboration by connecting passionate people and businesses, with a vision of improving lives through construction.

This is accomplished in several ways, including:

  • 3,000+ safety trainees annually. 

  • Community outreach. 

  • 1,500+ apprentices in cosponsored programs. 

  • Delivery of business education and professional development. 

  • Negotiation of 27 collective bargaining agreements. 

  • Coadministration and trustee-appointment authority for 28 fringe funds with over $3 billion in assets. 

  • Government relations services at the local and state level, as well as federally through AGC Kansas City, a chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and the association’s sister organization. 


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