Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA

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[Two scenarios are provided. They can be used to customize the article for a particular audience.]

[Construction - A worker began installing a roof one hot sunny morning. Two hours later, he complained of feeling ill and vomited. He continued working. At 3:00 p.m., when he climbed down the ladder, he was confused and unsteady. He missed a step and fell. He was taken to the hospital and later died. His body temperature was 108 degrees.]

[Agriculture - A young worker arrived for her shift at a vineyard. She was pregnant, and her job required her to spend long hours tying grapevines in the sun. As the day wore on, the temperature soared, eventually reaching triple digits. After nine hours of work, she collapsed from heat exhaustion. Two days later, she was dead. She was 17 years old.]

Hot weather is here. When you are working outside, extreme heat is not only uncomfortable…it can kill. In 2011, thousands of workers in the United States got sick from exposure to heat on the job, and more than 60 workers died. These illnesses and deaths were preventable.


Heat illness can be prevented. Remember these three things: water, rest, and shade.

  • WATER: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. A good rule of thumb is to drink 4 cups of water every hour. It is best to drink a small amount of water every 15 minutes.
  • REST: Rest breaks help your body recover.
  • SHADE: Resting in the shade or in air-conditioning helps you cool down.
sketch of workers drinking fluids near the back of a truck
sketch of workers under covered an area


Here are some other ways you can prevent illness from the heat:

  • Report symptoms of heat illness right away.
  • Wear light-colored cotton clothing.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn.
  • Watch out for your coworkers.
  • Know where you are working in case you need to call 911.

While you are waiting for help…

You can help a co-worker in distress while you are waiting for help to arrive:

  • Move the worker to a cool, shady area.
  • Loosen the person’s clothing.
  • Fan air on the worker.
  • Apply cool water or ice packs to his or her skin.

These simple steps could save a person’s life.


It’s important to know the signs of heat-related illness—acting quickly can save lives.

  • Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Usually, when your body builds up heat, you sweat to get rid of the extra heat. With heat stroke, your body can’t cool down. The symptoms include: confusion, fainting, seizures, very high body temperature and hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.  HEAT STROKE IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.  CALL 911 if a coworker shows any signs of heat stroke.
  • Heat exhaustion happens when your body loses too much water and salt through sweating. Symptoms may include: headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst and heavy sweating.
  • Heat fatigue, heat cramps, and heat rash are less serious, but they are still signs of over exposure to heat.
A Heat Safety Fact Sheet - PDF

If you feel any of the symptoms of heat-related illness, or you see a coworker in distress, tell your supervisor right away.

OSHA CAN HELP. Visit www.osha.gov for worker fact sheets, worksite posters, and other resources on preventing heat illness, in both English and Spanish. If you have questions, call OSHA. It's confidential. Call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit www.osha.gov to learn more about heat illness.

Illustration credits: Cal/OSHA



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