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What are Heat Stress Injuries?

By Butler Prather LLP on December 19, 2019

Heat stress injuries are serious and can lead to significant health concerns. Workers who are exposed to extreme heat or who work in hot environments could be at risk of a heat stress injury. The most common heat stress injuries include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rashes.

Employers have a duty to ensure workers have a safe environment. If an employee is forced to work in overheated conditions, they could suffer severe health consequences, and existing health conditions could be exasperated.

Types of Heat-Related Illnesses

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common types of heat-related illnesses include:

Heat Stroke

This is the most serious heat-related illness and occurs if the body becomes unable to control its own temperature – sweating mechanisms fail, the body’s temperature rises rapidly, and the body is unable to cool down. Heat stroke will likely occur when the body’s temperature rises to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Without emergency medical treatment, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or death. A person suffering from heat stroke may suffer from confusion, rapid pulse, and a loss of consciousness.

Heat Exhaustion

When the body loses an excess of water and salt, a person can suffer from heat exhaustion. This is more likely to happen due to excessive sweating, and symptoms can include dizziness, weakness, excessive thirst, headache, nausea, and elevated body temperature.


This is associated with heat stress and prolonged physical exertion, common for workers. This syndrome occurs when muscle fibers break down and release toxins into the bloodstream. Causes of \rhabdomyolysis include heat stroke and high body temperature. The toxins released into the bloodstream can cause irregular heart rhythms, seizures, and kidney damage.

Heat Syncope

This is fainting or dizziness that occurs due to prolonged standing or sudden rising from a seated or lying position. Those who are dehydrated and working in heated environments are more likely to suffer from heat syncope.

Heat Cramps

Those who sweat a lot over prolonged periods of time while working ate more likely to suffer from heat cramps. This is due to the body’s depletion of salt and moisture levels. Low salt in the muscles can cause painful cramps.

Heat Rash

A heat rash is caused by excessive sweating during hot and humid weather. The skin may develop small, red blisters.

Preventing heat stress injuries

Heat-related injuries are preventable. Both the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommend that certain work practices be followed by employers. This includes:

  • Allowing workers time to become acclimated to the heat.
  • Encouraging workers to take breaks and stay hydrated.
  • Providing workers with water at all times that is easily accessible.
  • Providing workers with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). This can include gloves, reflective clothing, or thermally conditioned clothing.
  • Reducing physical demands during hot weather

All workers should be trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related injuries and illnesses in themselves and others. There should be emergency procedures in place that outline what is supposed to happen in the event a heat-related injury is suspected. This includes procedures for contacting emergency medical services.

Those who suffer from work-related heat injuries should be entitled to workers’ compensation insurance to cover their medical bills and any lost income.

Posted in: Personal Injury

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