Heat-Related Illness

Sun in the blue sky.

Water. Rest. Shade.

HEAT ILLNESS CAN BE DEADLY! Every year, thousands of workers become sick from exposure to heat; some even die. These illnesses and deaths are preventable.

Who is affected?

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 (also known as becoming acclimated), are in poor physical condition, are older, have heart disease, high blood pressure, or are taking certain medications.

What is heat illness?

The body normally cools itself by sweating. During hot weather, especially with high humidity, sweating isn't enough to regulate the body's temperature. Body temperature can rise to dangerous levels if precautions are not taken. Heat illnesses range from heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

How can heat illness be prevented?

Remember three simple words: water, rest, and shade. Drinking water often, taking frequent breaks, and limiting time in the heat can help prevent heat illness. TWU supervisors should include these prevention steps in employee training and work plans. Gradually build up to heavy work in hot conditions. This helps you build a tolerance to the heat — or become acclimated. Supervisors should take steps that help workers become acclimated, especially workers who are new to working outdoors in the heat or have been away from work for a week or more. Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks during the first week of work. Also, it’s important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do — acting quickly can save lives!

The Texas State Office of Risk Management has a short video that clearly explains the symptoms and treatments of heat-related illness.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s "Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers" web page has printable educational materials, including posters and handouts in English and Spanish.

Page last updated 3:31 PM, January 22, 2024