Coping with Heat on the Job

Everyone—especially those who work outdoors or in poorly cooled environments—should know both the signs of heat-related illnesses (also known as Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion) and steps to prevent it.

Preventing Heat Illness in Workers

Preventing heat illness on the job can be difficult. Any employee exposed to heat and high humidity, who works outdoors, performs heavy work tasks, or wears bulking protective clothing and equipment is at great risk for heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heat stroke. Workers who have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions are also at an increased risk for heat sickness.

Three simple words can help prevent heat-related illnesses: Water, Rest & Shade.

Understanding the challenges facing these workers to successfully obtain those three critical factors, OSHA has rolled out a thorough outreach campaign to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of working in hot weather. OSHA’s program emphasizes the importance of drinking water often, taking breaks, and limiting time in the heat to help prevent heat illness. Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans.

Employers and workers are urged to understand the signs and symptoms heat illness, to report any signs in themselves or co-workers, and to plan for heat emergencies at the job site.

The department’s heat illness campaign includes training resources for employers and educational factsheets for workers. Through a partnership with NOAA Weather, OSHA also has a Heat Safety Tool cell phone app for Android and iPhones that gives workers the temperature, heat index, precautions, and risk levels at their locations.

Signs of Heat Illness

During hot weather—especially paired with Chicago’s high humidity levels—sweating just isn’t enough to cool your body. Your temperature can rise to dangerous levels and result in a heat illness. The most serious heat illnesses are heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Heat stroke can occur suddenly, without any symptoms of heat exhaustion. If a person is experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, GET MEDICAL CARE IMMEDIATELY. Any delay in emergency treatment can be fatal.

Heat Exhaustion symptoms include:

  • Fatigue and/or Weakness
  • Nausea and/or Headaches
  • Excessive thirst
  • Muscle aches and cramps
  • Agitation, Confusion or Anxiety
  • Drenching sweats, often accompanied by cold, clammy skin
  • Slowed or weakened heartbeat
  • Dizziness or Fainting

Heat stroke symptoms are very similar to Heat Exhaustion but important differences may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Delirium
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Decreased sweating
  • Hot, flushed, dry skin
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased urination
  • Fever
  • Convulsions

If you are treated or hospitalized for a work-related heat illness, contact Styka & Styka to learn about your worker’s compensation rights.

Access the OSHA Campaign at

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