Industry Trends

Extreme heat reaches a boiling point for workers

September 5, 2023

RESOURCES Extreme heat reaches a boiling point for workers

You don’t need a meteorologist to tell you this summer has been hot. Historically hot, in fact. From heat domes to devastating wildfires — extreme weather conditions have impacted nearly every region in the United States. On a day-to-day basis, workers are dealing with the impact of the hottest summer on record. Nowhere is this more true, than across America’s frontline workforce.

Frontline workers are at risk

Extreme heat can be a serious hazard for workers who face high temperatures and long hours during their shifts. Indoor temperatures can quickly climb upwards of 90° Fahrenheit in warehouses. Add to that, that not every region experiencing extreme heat this summer is used to these conditions. As a result, not all buildings are outfitted to accommodate sustained heat. In extreme heat, the body’s ability to cool itself is threatened. As body temperature rapidly rises, an individual can experience dizziness, exhaustion, and confusion. If symptoms worsen, heat exposure can lead to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heatstroke. Without proper rest and hydration, workers can struggle to complete work safely — putting themselves, their teammates, and even consumers at risk.

As heat rises, so do employee concerns

This year, heat-related workforce concerns have risen significantly. According to WorkStep data, employers experienced a 14% year-over-year increase in heat-related complaints from frontline workers. And it’s clear that the impact of heat on worker sentiment increases drastically as temperatures heat up. WorkStep data also shows that the tipping point for workers hovers around 85° Fahrenheit. According to the data, frontline workers are 5X more likely to cite heat as a challenge when the temperature rises above 85°.

Heat is costly for employers, too

The New York Times lays out the financial impact associated with extreme heat, including lost productivity and increased mortality and injury. Organizations experience some of these costs on a local level through poor workforce sentiment and higher employee turnover. WorkStep data shows that frontline workers who experience an average temperature above 85° in their first month of work, are 42% more likely to turnover within their first 90 days. Higher turnover can lead to increased recruitment and overtime costs, low employee satisfaction, and more safety incidents.

How can employers help cool concerns?

Aside from waiting for cooler fall days, there are a few steps employers can take to help keep workers safe in extreme conditions:

  • Provide adequate access to water and water breaks
  • Make sure workers have access to cooling stations, fans, or shade
  • Check cooling equipment to make sure it’s working, particularly on days when temperatures spike
  • Properly train workers and supervisors on heat safety and symptoms to watch out for
  • Use communication tools to remind employees to stay hydrated and take breaks
  • Ask workers to share anonymous feedback and make sure they know their heat-related concerns have been heard and addressed

As summer turns to fall, it’s easy to forget that many frontline workers are still facing extreme conditions for the foreseeable future. Employers need to continue to prioritize heat safety to create a cooler, safer, and a more productive workplace.

Address critical safety issues in real-time

Get real-time alerts to address safety issues and relay critical information to your workforce with WorkStep.

Book a demo today

Zoe Morin

Zoe Morin, |

Zoe Matho Morin is the VP Marketing at WorkStep. WorkStep is an employee engagement solution that helps organizations engage and retain their frontline workforce. Prior to WorkStep, Zoe led marketing at a global HR tech company.