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Preventing Indoor Heat Illness in the Colder Months

- November 9, 2018 by Harrison Barrett (View all posts by Harrison)

Have you ever added a fish from the pet store to an established fish tank? Chances are you threw him into the water to see if he would sink or swim. He will swim in most cases, but not for long. Why? Because you subjected him to a significant temperature change which stressed the fish and stress kills fish. You should have taken the sealed bag your fish came in and let it float on the surface of your aquarium for about 15 minutes. This amount of time allows the temperature of the water inside the bag to reach the same temperature inside the aquarium which helps the fish become acclimated.

Ectothermic vs. Endothermic

Fish are ectothermic, meaning that they regulate their temperatures strictly from their immediate environment. Humans, however, are endothermic. We produce our own heat and regulate our body temperatures at a consistent 98.6° Fahrenheit. Even though we produce our own body heat, we still need to adjust to internal/external temperatures just as the fish from the pet store.

Heat Stress

As the winter months come upon us, we can expect colder temperatures. We will layer clothes as we become more acclimated to the cold. But what would happen should our bodies become acclimated to colder weather and then we need to perform work inside environments near forges, boiler rooms or other heat sources? Even though our bodies our capable of venting excess heat, we could experience the symptoms of heat stress such as profuse sweating, dizziness or nausea.

Effective Heat Illness Prevention Programs

Heat illness can affect us just as much in the winter as it can in the summer. To help mitigate employees from indoor heat illness, organizations should have effective heat illness prevention programs. Some components of an effective heat illness prevention program include:

  • Providing potable drinking water that is fresh, pure, cool and free of charge.
  • Providing employees with a cool down area away from the effective heat source.
  • Providing instruments to measure temperature and obtain an accurate heat index.
  • Having proper assessment and control measures for when indoor temperatures exceed 20°, 30°, or even 40° Fahrenheit above exterior temperatures. The assessment should be completed in writing.
  • Having an emergency response procedure that can be immediately implemented should a crisis arise.
  • Providing employees and supervisors with training to understand the symptoms of heat exhaustion as well as the components of your heat illness prevention program.

For more information on indoor heat illness, watch ICW Group’s “Beat the Heat & Keep Cool: Indoors” on-demand webinar.


Neidhardt, Amalia. Oct 24, 2018. Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment Draft Text. State of California, Department of Industrial Relations. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/doshreg/heat-illness-prevention-indoors/