With summer around the corner, workers have a greater risk of being exposed to high temperatures. This creates a problem for workers, especially outdoors. However, heat-related illnesses are not limited to just the outdoors. This is seen, but not limited to, in steel mills, foundries, utilities, warehousing manufacturing, bakeries and fire services. Most issues arise in the first few days of working in a hot environment. This is due to the body having less time to adjust to these high temperatures in order to build a tolerance. This process of becoming, or the state of being, acclimated, or habituated to a new climate is better known as ‘heat acclimation.’ Our bodies go through acclimatization when we are faced with temperature fluctuations from different environments. Problems can arise when one does not allow their body to acclimate to hot temperatures, which can lead to various heat-related illnesses. According to Safety and Health Magazine, “from 1992 to 2016 heat-related illnesses killed 783 workers and injured almost 70,000 in the United States alone” Bottino (2021). Additionally, OSHA states that “50% to 70% percent of fatalities from heat-related illnesses happen in the first days of working outside in hot working environments.” (Overview: Working in Outdoor and Indoor Heat Environments, 2021). Therefore, allowing workers to get acclimated to their working conditions and gradually increasing their workload is crucial and essential for the safety of all employees.
Risk factors include:
Heat-related illnesses include:
This is the most dangerous heat-related illness. This can happen when the body gets above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. The body loses control of its temperature and can no longer sweat and cool itself. The body can reach temperatures as high as 106 degrees within as little as 10 minutes, which can be fatal and permanent injures if not treated.
What to do:
Heat exhaustion happens when the body is exposed to high temperatures for multiple days and is not replenished with enough fluids. This is a mild form of heat-related illness that is seen often in elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and anyone working or exercising in an environment that is hot. Medical attention is required if symptoms last longer than an hour. If this remains untreated it can turn into heatstroke.
What to do:
Heat cramps occur most of the time because of strenuous activity and are muscle pains and spasms. They typically happen in the legs, arms, or abdomen. The more you sweat the more likely you are to get heat cramps. Sweating depletes the body moisture and salt levels. You need to seek medical attention if you are on a low-sodium diet or have heart problems.
What to do:
Heat rash is a skin irritation that looks like a group of small blisters or pimples. This forms usually in elbow creases, the groin, on the upper chest, the neck and under the breasts. This is caused by extreme sweating in hot, humid weather. This can happen to people of all ages however, it is most prominent in children.
What to do:
Heat-related illness awareness is essential for the safety of workers in hot working conditions. This includes working indoors and outdoors. It is important to pace yourself and progressively increase your pace working in these environments to let your body acclimate to the temperature. Wearing lightweight and light-colored clothing also helps keep the body cool. Drinking enough fluids is also extremely important to preventing heat-related illnesses. Sports drinks, water, and fruit juices are great choices. If you start to notice your heart pounding, gasping for air, or any other symptoms of heat-related illnesses listed above; it is important to stop your activity and get to a cool place and rest.
Bottino, B., 2021. Safety amid the swelter. [online] Safetyandhealthmagazine.com. Available at: <; [Accessed 14 May 2021].