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Overheating Still A Concern As Temperatures Drop

| Aug 10, 2016 | Workers’ Compensation

Heat related illnesses are responsible for thousands of injuries across America every year, and may be a contributing factor in a worker’s death. Despite lower outdoor temperatures, hotspots in the workplace can still cause heat related injuries that necessitate a workers comp attorney.

Types Of Heat Related Injuries

There are five different conditions a worker may experience when exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time. They include:

In a hot environment, the body responds by enlarging blood vessels as a means to lower body temperature. The enlargement leads to lower blood pressure, and the body is unable to move the blood through the body back to the heart and brain. Employees who spend long periods of time without moving are the most susceptible.

If there is not enough air flow to cool the skin or the humidity is too high for sweat to evaporate, a painful rash will form. Employees who are unable to treat the rash immediately and change working conditions to prevent another occurrence might also develop an infection.

Hot temperatures increase sweat, which robs the body of both moisture and vital electrolytes, such as salt and potassium. Without these electrolytes, the body begins to shut down and employees suffer painful cramps, especially to the legs and lower back. Drinking water only complicates the problem, as an increase in water in the body without an increase in electrolytes further dilutes the required minerals.

Heat Exhaustion
One of the most serious heat related illnesses is heat exhaustion, which occurs when the body sweats out so much water and so many minerals that it barely has enough to function. The body will become clammy, and the face flushed. Employees experience a sense of incredible fatigue, often coupled with euphoria and nausea. Sometimes the employee can be treated with a break in a cool area and plenty of liquids; however, extreme cases require the assistance of a workers comp attorney to secure compensation for lost time at work.

Heat Stroke
The most extreme heat related illness is heat stroke, a condition where the body is so overheated and has sweat so much that it cannot continue to operate. The first signs happen when the employee stops sweating and body temperature rises to over 100 degrees. Once the symptoms arise, the employee has only a few minutes to seek treatment before suffering convulsions or delirium. In some cases, the employee may suffer long-term brain damage and death. Employees who suffered from one heat stroke in the past become less and less resistant to additional heat strokes, and the conditions trigger much faster.


Heat related illnesses are a problem because they both directly cause injuries to workers, while complicating other injuries. An employee who becomes dizzy from heat exhaustion may drop a heavy piece of equipment and cause an injury a workers comp lawyer would pursue, or an employee fainting on the warehouse floor may suffer head and back injuries.

Who Is Most At Risk?

People working in outdoor jobs are most at risk during the Summer, but there are a number of employees who work inside that must be aware of the dangers of heat related illnesses all year long. These workplaces include:

  • Laundries
  • Kitchens, both restaurant and industrial
  • Canneries
  • Industrial facilities that generate high humidity, like smelters and paper manufacturers

In most cases, the combination of high heat and high humidity these workers face limits their natural ability to fight overheating and creates dangerous working conditions.

What To Look For

Employee self-monitoring is an important factor in limiting the damage heat related illnesses cause. Common signs include:

  • Headache
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Blackouts
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dry or sticky mouth

When the signs are present, employees should speak with a supervisor or manager to receive some relief from the heat.

Treatment And Prevention

Employees and employers can prevent heat related illnesses with some minor precautions.

  • Providing water for breaks every 15-20 minutes
  • Offering cool rest areas
  • Shifting high energy work to morning or evening hours
  • Educating employees about the dangers of heat related illness
  • Allow new employees to become acclimated to the temperature in the work environment

In the Fall and Spring, unexpected changes in temperature increases employee risk of heat related illnesses. Employers fail to adjust ventilation in closed rooms or provide adequate airflow with fans or blowers, and employees suffer as a result.

When an employer fails to take the necessary precautions or provide measures to prevent heat related illness, a workers comp attorney may seek damages.

Employers are responsible for keeping their employees safe at work, and when the employer fails to do so, employees may seek compensation with a workers comp attorney. Heat related illness is a common concern throughout the year, and should not be ignored when the temperature drops.