Best Practices to Protect Power Utility Workers from Heat Illnesses

Best Practices to Protect Power Utility Workers from Heat Illnesses

July 5, 2018

You don’t have to work in our industry to notice the outside temperatures are rising. However, for those of us that do work in power utilities and outside in the elements – we need to be more aware of how the heat affects us so that we can continue to work in a safe manner.

How does extreme heat affect us?

Our crews work in extreme heat, high humidity and in direct sun light. For most of us to do our jobs right, we have to perform heavy physical labor while we wear mandatory fire-resistant clothing – which only adds to the heat… Therefore, most of us are considered at risk for heat illnesses.

Heat illnesses include: heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat rash, and the deadly heat stroke. While each illness has its own set of symptoms, the most common symptoms include:

  • Headache, Dizziness, or Fainting
  • Weakness, Passing Out, Collapse, or Seizures (fits)
  • Sweating more than normal or May Stop Sweating
  • Wet or Clammy Skin, Loss of Skin Color or Paler than Normal, or Very Red Face
  • Irritability, Confusion, or Unable to Think Clearly
  • Extreme Thirst, Nausea, or Vomiting

A few of our Director of Safety’s Best Practices include:

Beginning of Day:

  • Morning Meetings – Discuss the expected high for the day, make note of it on your daily tailboards. Remind everyone to be aware of their own limitations and to watch out for signs of heat illnesses in your brothers/co-workers. Make sure everyone is fit for duty.
  • Start drinking water early and aim to drink more every 15 minutes (whether you feel thirsty doesn’t matter – drink water).

Throughout the Day:

  • At the jobsite find a shaded location and designate it as the break area. Make sure to take breaks as needed, especially when the temperature is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Make sure your crew has enough water, so they can drink more water every 15 minutes, and double check with them that they are drinking this often. Do not bring caffeinated or sugary drinks on the jobsite.


  • New employees and those who are not used to working in the heat all day tend to be affected the most. It takes about 7 to 10 days of working in the heat, for your body to get used to it – even then, it is still hot.
  • Don’t be afraid to call a supervisor for help or to help others take the right safety steps to avoid overheating.

OSHA also has a Quick Card which informs employees who work in the heat how to protect yourself from heat stress. You can find a link to that Quick Card here.

Please visit our safety section of our website for more information on our safety programs, orientation and training, and industry partnerships. Feel free to contact us with any questions or requests too!