“I was working on an interstate construction project doing heavy labor. As the day went on, it got to be 105 with a heat index of 112. I neglected to hydrate enough. I collapsed at 2:30 p.m." {source}

Heat is the leading cause of worker death in weather-related events. It worsens existing health problems like asthma and heart disease, and it can lead to death if it isn’t treated correctly. 

According to a study of heat-related illness investigations from 2011-2016, 80% of heat-related fatalities took place in outdoor work sites. However, indoor workers are also at risk. The same study showed 61% of nonfatal, heat-related illnesses happened at indoor job sites. 

Worker in PPE - Heat illness

In October 2021, OSHA began the rulemaking process to develop a standard to protect workers from heat-related hazards. For safety managers, it’s crucial to know how to identify and respond to workers suffering from heat-related illnesses.  

There are four common heat-related illnesses to watch for: Heat Rash, Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, and Heat Stroke. 

  1. You can identify heat rashes by clusters of red bumps on the skin. These often appear on the neck or upper chest. When possible, move the worker to a cooler, less humid area and keep the affected skin dry.  
  2. Painful muscle spasms in the legs and abdomen paired with heavy sweating indicate heat cramps. This is often the first sign of heat illness and can lead to heat exhaustion or stroke. Aid workers with heat cramps by mildly massaging or applying firm pressure to the cramping muscles. Also, provide the worker with sips of water unless nausea occurs. Take the worker for medical attention if the cramps don’t go away after an hour. 
  3. Heat exhaustion occurs when a worker loses excessive amounts of water and salt in their body. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst, elevated body temperature, and heavy sweating. To treat your worker, take them to a clinic or emergency room. Call 911 if other medical help is not available. Then, take the worker to a cool area and give them cool water to sip while you wait for help. 
  4. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. It occurs when the body temperature elevates, sweating stops, and the body cannot regulate its core temperature. Watch for symptoms like a high temperature, confusion, fainting, dizziness, seizures, cramps, and/or nausea. If you think a worker is experiencing a heat stroke, immediately call 911. Then, move the worker to a cooler area, loosen their clothing, provide water, and wait with the worker until help arrives.  

Safety managers can help prevent heat hazards by: 

-Gradually exposing new workers to heat. This allows their bodies to adapt to hot working conditions.  

    -Train your team to recognize and control heat hazards.  

      -Check heat conditions throughout the day and evaluate employee heat stress. 

      -Use climate controls to reduce heat exposure.  

      Always remember to give your workers proper rest and cool water to drink. Hydration is critical to preventing heat-related illnesses. 

      TPC offers courses to help you train workers to recognize and respond to potential hazards, such as heat hazards. Our comprehensive safety library and OSHA 10-Hour safety training are the perfect way to introduce these topics to your team.  

      Get started here: Learn more about our safety library. 

      Check out our OSHA 10- and 30-Hour safety training courses. 



      Real Life Stories from Excessive Heat Victims 

      Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Settings 

      US Department of Labor initiates rulemaking to protect workers, outdoors and indoors, from heat hazards amid rising temperatures 

      OSHA Heat Health Topic 

      NIOSH Heat-Related Illness 

      Heat Cramps, Exhaustion, Stroke 

      OSHA Heat Prevention 

      OSHA Water. Rest. Shade. 



      About the author:

      Taylor Sikes is a safety professional with over 15 years of experience. He has served as an OSHA-authorized trainer for construction and general industry, holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Georgia, and has authored numerous courses in workplace safety.


      Sorry, no comments found for this article