How to Keep Workers Safe in Extreme Heat

Working outdoors in the summer can be deadly for workers. As temperatures rise, workers are more at risk for injury, illness, and even death. The most important risk factor in heat-related illnesses is lack of acclimatization. Up to 70 percent of heat-related deaths of outdoor workers happen within the first few days of working. This is because the body needs to build up a tolerance to the elevated temperature gradually over time.

Other risk factors that will increase a worker’s chance of experiencing a heat-related illness include the following:

  • High level of exertion
  • High air temperature
  • Humid air
  • Stagnant air
  • Sunlight
  • Heavier clothing, welders require protective sleeves to avoid burns
  • Pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease or a circulatory-related disease
  • Lifestyle, like being out of shape or being a smoker

What are the Signs of Extreme Heat Exposure?

The body usually responds to excessive heat in a series of conditions. A common first sign of overexposure is muscle cramping. However, not all people who will experience heat-related conditions will experience cramps.

A more serious condition is heat exhaustion. This will require immediate attention. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, weakness, irritability, and thirst. Often, the worker will also experience nausea and vomiting. A quick response is needed. Remove the worker from the heat, encourage them to drink plenty of water, and attempt to cool them off by using cold compression on the head, neck, and face. Swift medical treatment is called for in this case.

The most serious condition is heat stroke. This condition is when core body temperature is elevated above 104 degrees and is a medical emergency. Symptoms may overlap with heat exhaustion but may also include seizures, severe body temperature, and loss of consciousness. Workers will die from heat stroke without immediate medical attention.16.

How is Overexposure Prevented?

Worker safety and health protection precautions that will reduce risk are well known and effective. Employers are encouraged to take the following actions to protect their employees from getting sick from heat:

  • Allow heat acclimatization.
  • Give frequent breaks in shaded areas and cooler temperatures.
  • Provide training on recognizing and responding to signs of overexposure to heat.
  • Monitor working conditions to detect heat-related conditions and provide necessary relief at once.

At this time, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a dedicated rule to prevent illness from excessive heat. The agency can and does issue citations under the general duty clause to address this workplace hazard.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a comprehensive publication regarding the dangers of working in hot environments and how to minimize the risk of illness from working in hot environments. It is beneficial to review the website for more information.

All employers should provide for acclimatization so employees can gradually work up to full shifts in heat over time and provide water, shade, or breaks in cooler areas. The best practice would be for employers to establish a comprehensive program to prevent heat overexposure. Key elements include the following:

  • Heat acclimatization plan.
  • Medical monitoring plan.
  • Drinking water and adequate breaks, one cup of water should be consumed every 15 minutes.
  • Shaded or air-conditioned rest areas with regularly scheduled breaks to cool down.
  • Protective equipment, such as cooling vests.
  • Awareness and training on signs and symptoms of heat overexposure and how to respond to exposure.

Who is at Risk for Heat Exposure?

Sectors most likely to be impacted by extreme heat include construction, agriculture, landscaping, transportation, and oil and gas.

If you are a worker who has suffered a work injury or illness due to extreme heat, contact a lawyer right away. Having a lawyer by your side will ensure that your rights are protected and that you file a workers’ compensation claim quickly and correctly.

Downingtown Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Wusinich & Sweeney, LLC Protect Workers Suffering from Heat-Related Illnesses and Injuries

Extreme heat can cause serious illnesses and injuries in the workplace. It is important to know your rights in order to obtain all the compensation you deserve. Our Downingtown workers’ compensation lawyers at Wusinich & Sweeney, LLC have successfully represented injured workers and look forward to helping you. Call us at 610-594-1600 or complete an online form for a free consultation. Located in Exton, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Downingtown, West Chester, Exton, Coatesville, Phoenixville, Malvern, Lyndell, Wagontown, Uwchlan Township, Parkesburg, Chester Springs, Lancaster County, Reading, and Morgantown.

A Message to Our Customers About Coronavirus COVID-19:


Since Governor Wolf’s Order changing Chester County to green status, Wusinich & Sweeney, LLC is open for business. We are making every endeavor to keep our clients safe. If you would like to interact mainly by remote means, we can facilitate your request. Also, we have modified our office pursuant to the below COVID-19 safety plan to keep our clients as safe as possible.



  1. Check all people’s temperatures upon entrance. Deny entrance to anyone with a fever. Inform visitors that we regret that the law requires us to deny entry to people with fevers or other symptoms, and the firm will schedule a telephone or video visit promptly.
  2. Any persons with symptoms (fever, coughing) should stay home.
  3. Stagger work/meeting times to minimize number of persons in the office at once.
  4. All employees and visitors must wear masks except when office is empty or when sitting at own desk.
  5. Make soap and water and hand sanitizer available for all.
  6. All employees and visitors must maintain social distancing while in building.
  7. Use plastic sneeze guards at front desk and in conference room.
    1. Close off areas visited by infected person.
    2. Open outside doors and windows and use fans, if possible, to circulate air.
    3. Wait 24 hours or as long as practical and then clean and sanitize all affected areas.
    4. Identify people who were in close contact (within six feet for more than ten minutes) and follow CDC guidelines.