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The Safety Brief In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews
and insights into how contractors and safety managers
can be even more effective in protecting their workers.
In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews and insights into how contractors and safety managers can be even more effective in protecting their workers.

Heat Illness At Work


Heat illness will zap you, no matter what the heat source. Indoors, it could be from a furnace. Outdoors, it will probably be from that bigger furnace, the sun.

Workers who have not worked in heat before need to acclimatize. Start slowly and don’t overdo it.

Heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat syncope, heat cramps and heat rash are all covered in this podcast. We tell you how to guard against them, and how to treat them.

To help your body fight against heat illness, drink water often and take regular breaks. Avoid caffeine and sodas, and catch symptoms early.


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Dan Clark: Heat illness at work is, at the least, inconvenient, and could be deadly.

Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

High temps and humidity can really slow you down on the job. Extended exposure can be dangerous. Heat illness can come on quickly. It’s made worse by poor air circulation, working hard in heavy PPE, lack of liquids and it can crop up outdoors in construction and agricultural work, and indoors in factories, boiler rooms, and bakeries.


Some workers are at a greater risk if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions. New and temporary workers or employees coming back to work after a week off or more need to acclimatize. Gradually build up to working in the heat.

There are a few types of heat illnesses, and I’ve put the worst first:

HEAT STROKE. It can be fatal or lead to organ damage. This happens when your body can’t regulate its own temperature. A temp of 106 or more can happen very quickly, within 10 minutes after heat stroke begins. Look for heavy sweating, OR, hot and dry skin with chills, dizziness, headache, confusion, slurred speech and hallucinations. Call 911 immediately. Get the person into shade, apply cold water or ice, peel off the clothing, and fan their body.

HEAT EXHAUSTION. This happens when you sweat too much. You lose salt and fluid. Watch for dizziness, nausea, clammy skin, weakness, muscle cramps, shallow breathing and pale or flushed skin. Try to cool them down in shade and drink cool water. If the person begins to show signs of heat stroke, call 911.

HEAT SYNCOPE is fainting. Before fainting happens, you may be lightheaded or dizzy. The best treatment before or after fainting: lie down, drink fluids.

HEAT CRAMPS. Sweat away too much salt and you may get heat cramps. This is typical when workers are doing big physical labor in the heat. At first, you may feel muscle cramps anywhere in the body. The best treatment: sit down, drink fluids such as sports drinks, and eat a snack.

HEAT RASH. Heat rash happens because of sweating, often while wearing clothing that doesn’t breathe well. It appears as a red bumps or blisters on your skin. The solution: move out of the heat, dry the rash.

Those are the primary heat illnesses. To avoid them workers should:

  • Stay hydrated—drink a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes while working. Drink plenty of fluids at home too.
  • Take breaks. This will keep you safer and improve work performance. Talk with your boss about the need for breaks, if necessary.
  • Watch for symptoms of heat illness in yourself and other people.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

That’s all for this episode on Heat Illness At Work. Come back for more tips and techniques on how to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, sponsored by Creative Safety Supply. See the website at


See OSHA’s campaign to prevent heat illness in outdoor workers.

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