Preventing Heat Illness

One of the most common injuries among workers during the summer months is suffering from a heat-related illness. Workers who are exposed to extreme heat can develop potentially life threatening heat illnesses.

Providing workers with the knowledge necessary to identify the potential warning signs and symptoms of heat related injuries can go a long way in the prevention of illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. Here’s some information on preventing heat illness.

Workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are at risk of heat illness, especially those doing heavy work tasks or using bulky protective clothing and equipment. Some workers might be at greater risk than others if they have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions.

HEAT STROKE: Heat stroke, also referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke, is a life-threatening medical condition. The body’s cooling system, which is controlled by the brain, stops working and the internal body temperature rises to the point at which brain damage or damage to other internal organs may result.


  • Flushed, hot, and dry skin (although it may be moist initially from previous sweating or from attempts to cool the person with water)
  • Blood pressure may be high or low
  • Hyperventilation
  • Rectal (core) temperature of 105 F (40.5 C) or more

HEAT CRAMPS: Heat cramps are painful, brief muscle cramps that occur during exercise or work in a hot environment. Muscles may spasm or jerk involuntarily. Cramping may also be delayed and occur a few hours later. Heat cramps usually involve the muscles fatigued by heavy work such as the calves, thighs, abdominal muscles, and shoulders.


  • Painful
  • Involuntary
  • Brief
  • Intermittent (they come and go)
  • Usually self-limited (resolve on their own)

HEAT EXHAUSTION: Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness that can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids. Those most prone to heat exhaustion are elderly people, those with high blood pressure, and those working or exercising in a hot environment.


  • Pale with cool, moist skin
  • Profuse sweating profuse
  • Muscle cramps or pains
  • Faint or dizzy feeling
  • Headache, weakness, thirst, and nausea

Disclaimer: The information and suggestions contained in these safety talks are believed to be reliable. However, the authors of the topics and the owners of this web site accept no legal responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency, or completeness of such information or suggestions contained within these topics. These guidelines do not supercede local, state, or federal regulations and must not be construed as a substitute for, or legal interpretation of, any OSHA regulations.