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Working in Extreme Heat: Professions and Illnesses That Put You at Risk

hot_worker_outsideIf you work outside in the heat, or inside a workplace where the temperatures are high, you may not realize the dangers you face of developing a heat-related illness. If not treated, some conditions can quickly develop into a serious medical emergency.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), thousands of workers exposed to extreme heat experience health problems. Some conditions are fatal.

If you experience the effects of a heat-related illness and need to take time off work to recover, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay your medical expenses and to replace your lost wages.

Industries With High Risk of Heat-Related Illnesses

There's a wide range of industries which expose workers to a greater danger high heat. Inside operations that jeopardize employees include:

  • Iron, steel, and other foundries
  • Brick-firing plants
  • Ceramic plants
  • Glass production facilities
  • Factories
  • Electrical operations
  • Bakeries
  • Commercial kitchens
  • Laundries and laundromats
  • Food canneries
  • Chemical plants

Many workers who work outside are also at risk of becoming ill from the heat, including:

  • Farmers
  • Landscapers, groundkeepers, and others who perform yard work
  • Construction workers
  • Oil and gas operators and other refinery employees
  • Firefighters
  • Hazardous waste employees
  • Laborers

Health Problems Caused by Excessive Heat 

When workers are exposed to high heats for too long, their bodies’ temperature control systems become overloaded, and cooling through sweat isn't sufficient. These are some common heat-related illnesses workers can suffer:

  • Heat exhaustion. When someone loses too much salt and water through excessive sweating, he can develop heat exhaustion. Symptoms can include nausea, headache, and dizziness. Employees suffering heat exhaustion should be moved to a cool environment and given fluids right away, and then transported to an urgent care facility or their doctor.
  • Heat syncope. If a person becomes dehydrated from working in the heat, he can become dizzy or faint when he stands up suddenly or remains standing for long periods of time. Usually, the problem resolves itself if the worker takes a break in a cool, shaded area and drinks fluids.
  • Heat cramps. One of the reasons why hydration is so important in high heat workplaces is to avoid muscle contractions in the limbs or stomach due to exertion and a loss of electrolytes. Resting in a cool environment, massaging the affected area, and replenishing salt and fluids often help recovery.
  • Heat stroke. Heat exhaustion often leads to heat stroke, one of the most serious illnesses a worker can suffer. It causes a person’s body temperature to rise to a dangerous temperature within as little as 15 minutes. Without immediate medical care, a person can become permanently disabled or die.
  • Rhabdomyolysis. One of the serious medical conditions caused by heat stroke, rhabdomyolysis is the result of performing strenuous physical work in excessive heat over an extended period of time. This illness can result in a rapid breakdown and rupture of the workers’ muscles, leading to irregular heartbeats, seizures, and kidney damage.


If you have to file a workers’ comp claim due to heat-related injuries, you need the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. This ensures that you'll receive the benefits you deserve. Fill out our convenient online form to schedule your free consultation with Alan Morton.