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Six Serious Consequences of Heat Stress

November 08, 2017, Posted in News

Written by Joyce Wooley

Takeaway: Educate your workers about heat stress and establish a heat stress safety plan to make sure none of your employees have to experience these six effects of heat stress.

The heat workers experience from June to September throughout much of the country presents a serious health and safety hazard. On days when the temperature climbs near 100°F with high humidity, outdoor workplaces and job sites can be uncomfortable and, if you’re not prepared, downright dangerous.

Luckily, you're not helpless in the face of these risks. While you can't do anything about the temperature, understanding the serious consequences of heat stress can help you prevent heat-related injuries and illnesses.

What Is Heat Stress?

Heat stress occurs when your core body temperature increases significantly but your body isn't able to cool itself by sweating.

Who is at risk? Sensitivity to heat varies among the population and is influenced by age, weight, physical fitness, use of alcohol or medications, hydration level, and various medical conditions. But anyone who works in the heat for prolonged periods can succumb to heat stress. Workers in operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities are generally at the highest risk.

Six Serious Consequences of Heat Stress

Heat stress is no joke, and its effects can range from slight discomfort to life-threatening illness. Here are six of its most common consequences.

Mental Fatigue

Studies have shown that even a two percent dehydration level due to heat stress dramatically decreases a worker’s mental performance and ability to focus.

In fact, a performance study by NASA concluded that at temperatures of 80°F, workers make five errors per hour and 19 per three hours. At 95°F, the number of mistakes increased to 60 per hour and 138 every three hours—without the worker realizing it. The studies observed telegraph key operators at work, so their mistakes were not critical, but you can just imagine what would happen if a heavy machine manufacturer made an average of one mistake every minute.

Impaired Decision-Making and Decreased Reaction Time

Several studies have looked at the link between heat stress dehydration, the decision-making process, and work-related accidents. One particular study found that two percent of body weight loss due to dehydration impaired visual motor tracking, short-term memory, attention, and arithmetic efficiency. At an extreme four percent of body fluid loss, the study noted a 23 percent reduction in reaction time as compared to a properly hydrated individual.

It goes without saying that dehydration can be a severe workplace hazard in occupations where attention to detail or fast reaction time is key to maintaining operational safety.

Physical Exhaustion

At high temperatures, the body must work extra hard to cool itself. Studies have demonstrated that when ambient temperatures reach 95°F, the body moves half of its blood to the skin to produce moisture. Unfortunately this means that the remaining organs have to operate with only half the blood they normally require, leading to a lack of oxygen for working muscles.

After a prolonged period of working in the heat, the heart simply cannot meet the peak oxygen needs of each of the organ systems while adequately cooling the body. This is the point where workers feel extremely dehydrated and experience of physical exhaustion and muscle fatigue.

Productivity lags as a result of this exhaustion. In a study that placed forest workers in a controlled environment where one group was properly hydrated and the other dehydrated to just one percent of body weight loss, researchers found a 12 percent decrease in productivity from the dehydrated group.

Heat Rash

Heat-related rashes are the most common problem observed in hot work environments. Caused largely by sweating, heat rash looks like a cluster of red pimples or small blisters and may appear on the neck, upper chest, groin, under the breasts, or in the elbow creases.

The best antidote to heat rash is a cooler work environment with less humidity. The rash should be kept dry; ointments or anything that moistens the skin may make it worse.

While heat rashes themselves are not inherently dangerous, there can be complications if they aren't treated by moving the worker to a cooler environment. An untreated heat rash can become infected or reduce sweating, compromising the body's ability to regulate its temperature. Since these areas of skin are damaged, they may also be more susceptible to absorbing toxic chemicals.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is often a precursor to the more serious heat stroke and is generally accompanied by a slightly elevated core body temperature.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Thirst
  • Heavy sweating
  • Decreased urine output.

Workers with heat exhaustion should be removed from the heat, given liquids, and cooled with cold compresses while awaiting medical evaluation.

Heat Stroke

Perhaps the most serious consequence of heat stress, heat stroke is considered a serious medical emergency and occurs when the body’s heat regulating system fails. It includes a major disruption of the nervous system and a body temperature in excess of 104°F. Workers suffering from heat stroke may or may not continue sweating.

It’s imperative that those showing signs of heat stroke be taken to a shady area and cooled rapidly using ice while waiting for medical care.

Ensure Worker Safety with a Comprehensive Heat Stress Program

Educating your employees is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent workplace accidents related to heat stress. Reduced cognitive function, attention span, and visual motor tracking can have deadly consequences in many workplaces—but it’s completely preventable.

Establishing a workplace safety program for heat stress is critical for any organization that places workers in hot environments. Teach employees to recognize the hazards and to know what steps to take to prevent heat-related illness. Ensure supervisors make accommodations for the heat, where possible, including adjusting working schedules and providing a shady area with plenty of access to drinking water. Cooling towels, headbands, head shades, and neck wraps can also offer workers relief from the heat because they help to accelerate the evaporative cooling.


By educating employees, you can reduce heat stress. And by reducing heat stress, you can create a safer workplace with fewer accidents and increased productivity. Everyone benefits from taking a more careful approach to working in the summer heat.

SOURCE: Safeopedia

Cooling Down Core Temps

November 08, 2017, Posted in News

Written by Mary Padron

We all learned in science class that homeostasis is the self-regulating process by which our bodies maintain stability. One of the most important functions of homeostasis is the regulation of body temperature, which is called thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is the homeostatic process that allows the human body to maintain its core internal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37 degrees Celsius.

All thermoregulation mechanisms, such as sweating and shivering, are designed to return the body to its internal core temperature. If a worker’s internal core temperature is compromised while working in hot and humid working conditions, the worker becomes vulnerable to heat stress or heat induced illnesses. According to OSHA, thousands of workers are negatively impacted by heat stress each year and some even die from it.

What is heat stress?

Heat stress occurs when the body is no longer able to cool itself by sweating because the surrounding air temperature is close to or exceeds core body temperature. When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heatinduced illnesses can occur, such as:

  • Heat cramps—Muscle spasms associated with cramping in the abdomen, arms and calves often caused by losing large amounts of salt/ electrolytes and water through physical exertion
  • Heat rashes—The skin’s sweat glands are blocked and the sweat produced can’t reach the surface of the skin to evaporate. This causes inflammation that results in a rash with tiny red blisters or bumps on the skin. Sometimes the bumps can be white or yellow as well.
  • Heat exhaustion—The body overheats when the body’s cooling mechanism to maintain a normal core temperature begins to fail, usually from excessive heat and dehydration. Untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke. (See chart below.)
  • The often fatal heat stroke— Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency where the core body temperature is greater than 104 degrees Fahrenheit causing complications with the central nervous system.

Heat stress risk factors

Any job site—indoors or outdoors—that can raise a worker’s internal core temperature increases the risk of heat stress. High heat environments, high humidity areas, radiant heat sources, direct physical contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities can induce heat stress in employees. Other risk factors include weight, physical fitness and acclimatization, dehydration, metabolism, use of alcohol or medications, blood pressure, and age.

OSHA lists temperatures over 91 degrees as a moderate risk and advises to implement precautions that reduce heat stress. When the heat index ranges from 103 degrees and above, safety managers should be prepared to issue a heat stress alert and implement aggressive protective measures. Prone to heat stress Certain industries, occupations, and sports activities expose people to heat stress. These include but are not limited to military operations, moving companies, welding and metal forging, commercial laundries and bakeries, firefighters, boiler room workers, construction workers, and factory and automotive workers.

Outdoor operations in direct sunlight and hot weather, such as farming, construction, oil and gas well operations, and landscaping also increase the risk of heat-related illness in exposed workers.

Sporting and recreational events, such as 5K runs, marathons, fishing, even lying on the beach, can also induce heat stress, especially if the event takes place in a hot and humid climate.

Don’t forget that excessive heat may increase the risk of other injuries at the jobsite resulting from a worker’s sweaty palms, fogged-up safety glasses, and dizziness. Burns may also result when a worker accidentally comes in contact with hot surfaces or steam.

10 preventative measures

Take note of these preventative measures that every safety manager should practice to reduce the risk of heat stress.

1. Practice acclimatization, which is short work exposure early in the hot season, followed by gradual increases in intensity and duration.

2. Allow for frequent work breaks in an area that is cooler than the work environment.

3. Tell workers to drink plenty of water before, during, and after their shift and provide that water.

4. Tell workers to wear light-colored, loosefitting clothing.

5. Tell workers to avoid sugar, alcohol and caffeine, especially during heat waves.

6. Provide a hydration station with easy access to cool air or shade, water, fans, etc.

7. Implement a heat advisory program when a heat wave is forecasted or the heat index reaches 103 degrees. This can be as simple as putting an alert notice on a worker’s locker, at the time clock, or at the water cooler. Another tactic is to send a text to your workers with the heat advisory alert.

8. Train employees about heat stress, its risks and symptoms. OSHA has a Heat Stress Quick Card PDF that is available at

9. Formulate a buddy system where workers help monitor each other for the symptoms of heat stress.

10. Invest in PPE cooling products, such as cooling towels and neck wraps, head bands, and head shades, ice-packet vests, wetted overgarments, heat-reflective aprons or suits, and moisture-wicking apparel.

Cooling towels and neck wraps

Cooling products today are high tech and help accelerate the evaporative cooling process. The advanced technology allows for workers to stay cool for an extended length of time. Plus, when the coolness wears off, the cooling towel, neck wrap, headband or head shade can be quickly reactivated by submersion in water for two to three minutes and then twirling in the air to reactive the cooling technology.

In addition to keeping the worker cool during the work day, cooling towels and neck wraps also offer a convenient method to wipe away sweat from the face and eyes.

When specifying cooling products, ask these questions:

  • Is the product made from materials that are anti-microbial?
  • If the product is a headband or head shade, does it have a stretch-fit design which aids in comfort and a custom fit?
  • If the product is a neck wrap, does it have a stretch loop feature that keeps the wrap secure around the neck?
  • How long does the intense cooling experience last before it needs to be reactivated again?


Cooling products come in a variety of colors and patterns so they keep you cool, and they look cool too. Make sure your heat stress combat kit includes cooling products. They are economical, easy to use, and effective at reducing the risk of heat stress.


Radians® enters cooling products marketplace with Arctic Skull™

June 09, 2014, Posted in News

Radians, Inc., a manufacturer of quality personal protective equipment, is pleased to announce their entry into heat stress management through their new Arctic Skull™ product line that includes Cooling Headbands, Cooling Head Shades, and a Cooling Towel.

Their new cooling products are made with Advanced Arctic Technology that accelerates the evaporative cooling process to keep users cool for up to five hours. The patent pending utility and design features cover the use of flexible spandex elements that allow these products to move with the body, not against it, facilitating optimum blood circulation. The color palette for the cooling products line includes blue, high visibility green, red paisley, blue paisley and digital camo.

According to Radians’ Product Manager Dan Branson, “The patented stretch fit technology provides a noticeably more comfortable fit than standard headbands and head shades currently being sold in the marketplace.”

The new Arctic Skull cooling products by Radians will have work, sport, and lifestyle applications and will be sold in industrial and hardware retail channels through authorized distributors. To see a demonstration of their new cooling products, visit or

For more information about Arctic Skull or any of Radians’ quality safety gear, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 1-877-723-4267.



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