Temperatures across the country are rising and a food truck kitchen can easily approach temperatures of 110-140 degrees F on a summer day. Yes this is common across the food service industry, but in a food truck, the heat is elevated and heat stroke and other heat related health risks can quickly come on.

The old saying “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” is not something you or your food truck employees should take seriously. You and your food truck employees should be able to handle the heat inside your food truck.

Rebecca Kelly, head of the Tallahassee Food Truck Association and owner of the Street Chefs food truck says, “I joke around with people, I’m like ‘We’re working in a big toaster basically’. It’s a big metal box.”

And inside that metal box, the mercury rises like a rocket.

“It gets at least one hundred thirty, one hundred forty degrees. And it’s small”, said Lincoln Rich, owner of the Valhalla Grill (another Tallahassee food truck), “You’re caved in in there.”

If you and your food truck employees can’t handle these temps, something may be wrong with the ventilation inside your truck. If left unchecked, excessive food truck heat can endanger the lives of your employees.

Potential Heat Related Dangers

Food truck employees who are regularly subjected to extreme heat can suffer the following dangers:

  • Heat stroke. Occurring when the body temperature rises above 106 degrees F for 10-15 minutes, heat stroke is the result of the body’s inability to cool itself. Lack of sweat, hyperventilation and loss of consciousness are indicators of heat stroke. If left untreated, heat stroke can cause permanent disabilities or death.
  • Heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate fluid replenishment. Fast and shallow breathing as well as a fast and weak pulse are common symptoms. If untreated, heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke.
  • Dehydration. Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in. Dry mouth, extreme thirst, headache and dizziness are all symptoms of dehydration.

Protecting Food Truck Employees From Heat Stroke

Food truck owners can follow these tips to reduce their employees’ susceptibility to heat stroke and other kitchen heat related dangers:

  • Explain the dangers. Educate employees on the dangers of excessive heat and what to do should they get heat stroke or become overheated.
  • Know the warning signs. Learn the warning signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke and ways to combat these illnesses once they begin. A person that shows the signs of heat stroke will need immediate medical attention. Call 911 and try to make them as cool as possible until help arrives.
  • Require proper attire. Have them wear cool, breathable clothes, like cotton, while working in hot conditions.
  • Provide breaks. Give your food truck employees breaks out of the truck to let their body to cool down.
  • Encourage workers to hydrate. Providing bottled water to employees will encourage them to grab one to drink when they are thirsty.
  • Keep your food truck as cool as possible. Not an easy task but air conditioning, small fans and proper kitchen ventilation can all help keep your food truck as cool as possible.
  • Keep vent hoods are working properly. If the vent hood filters are clogged it can affect the vent’s performance. Regularly clean and inspect the ventilation system to assure efficient operation.
  • Shade and Rest Areas: Set up shaded or air-conditioned rest areas where employees can take breaks away from the heat. This could be a nearby building, tent, or even the cab of the truck if it’s air-conditioned.
  • Scheduling: Adjust work schedules to avoid the hottest parts of the day. If possible, plan for heavier workloads during cooler hours in the morning or late afternoon.
  • Education: Train employees on recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke, and the importance of taking regular breaks and staying hydrated. Make sure to have a conversation about this with employees before the shift starts as a reminder.

The Bottom Line

Take ownership of the health and safety of your food truck employees. As temps rise outside your truck, they rise even faster inside. Use the information provided in this article to protect you and your employees from heat stroke.

Do you have any additional tips to prevent heat stroke and other heat related dangers in trucks? We’d love to hear them. Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section or social media.