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Beware of Heat-Related Illnesses

Julie Copeland

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As summer heats up, it is important to remember the dangers associated with risingAs the weather heats up, thousands of workers nationwide suffer from serious heat-related illnesses (HRI). temperatures.

While many workers may heed the warnings that being too hot is an actual danger and not just an inconvenience, every year, thousands of workers nationwide suffer from serious heat-related illnesses (HRI).

There are a number of illnesses related to overheating, each with a different degree of seriousness. These illnesses include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat syncope, heat rash, and heat edema.

Heat Stroke: High Risk

When a worker’s body temperature exceeds 105.1°F, he or she is experiencing heat stroke, also known as sun stroke. This elevated hyperthermia is one of the more serious conditions caused by heat exposure.


  • Body Temperature Exceeding 105.1°F

  • Confusion

  • Excessive or Lack of Sweating

  • Fainting

  • Seizures

Heat Exhaustion: Medium Risk

Heat exhaustion is usually as a result of dehydration or salt depletion. Can also develop into heat stroke if left untreated.


  • Weakness

  • Sweating

  • Extreme Thirst

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Cramps

  • Fainting

Heat Cramps: Medium Risk

When your body doesn’t have enough fluids or electrolytes, it is possible to experience a heat cramp. Alone heat cramps are not a serious condition, and can occur hours after your body has cooled down as a standalone illness. But can become a symptom of a more serious condition, such as heat stroke.     


  • Cramps in Calves, Abdomen, or Arms

  • Muscle Spasms

Heat Syncope: High Risk

Heat syncope, or fainting from overheating, is also both a symptom and a standalone illness. In teens it is common to experience fainting before heat stroke occurs, whereas with adults it is usually a result of it. Any state of unconsciousness is a serious condition that must be immediately addressed.


  • Any symptom from heat stroke or exhaustion can indicate the possibility of heat syncope

Heat Rash: Low Risk

Also known as Miliaria and “sweat rash,” heat rashes are commonly mild, itchy rashes that develop from excessive sweating. Any rash can lead to infection, especially when skin is broken. More common in children than adults, heat rash is generally not a threat to one’s health. It can, however, lead to heat exhaustion due to the blocking of sweat glands.


  • Small Red Rashes

  • Itching

  • Prickling Sensation

Heat Edema: Low Risk

Heat edema is a less common heat related condition that results from expanded blood vessels, that leads to swelling in the hands and legs. It is exacerbated when salt levels in the blood are higher than normal. Heat edema can occur both in high heat conditions and when someone from a colder climate moves to a warmer one. It is not a health risk but again, may indicate heat exhaustion.


  • Swelling of Hands and Legs

  • Clothes Feel Restrictive

  • Rings Feel Tight

It’s important to mention that some workers are at a greater risk than others for HRI’s. These employees include people who are over 65 years of age, are overweight, have heart disease, or high blood pressure, or take medications that may be affected by extreme heat.

Jobs that potentially put workers at risk of HRI’s are firefighters, bakery workers, farmers, construction workers, miners, boiler room workers, and factory workers.

Protect Employees From HRI’s By Taking Preventative Action

The following is a comprehensive list of tips to tackle the risks of heat-stress to ensure summertime workplace safety:

  • Train and educate workers and supervisors on risk factors and early warning signs of HRI’s

  • Provide cool drinking water near work areas and promote regular hydration before feeling thirsty

  • Monitor temperature and humidity levels near work areas

  • Implement a heat management program so everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency

  • Use work cycles to limit prolonged exposure to hot work areas and allow workers routine breaks in the shade

  • Use the “buddy system” to monitor worker conditions

  • Use safety supplies such as cooling vests, especially under heavy protective gear

  • Schedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day

  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar 

With temperatures rising, now is the time to start training employees on the safety hazards of HRI’s and implementing preventative measures for your workers who are exposed to extreme heat conditions. Through heat stress knowledge and tactics, you ensure the health and safety of your workers over the upcoming summer months. 

For more information about making your workplace safer, contact the safety specialists at 800.523.5367 or visit www.arbill.com.

Stay cool... and have a safe day!

Topics: Arbill, safety supplies, heat cramps, workplace safety, Heat related illnesses, heat stroke, heat stress

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