By: Bobby McIlquham

Warm temperatures are beginning to rise across the country as summer approaches. With hot/humid temperatures, heat stress should be on everyone’s minds, especially when it comes to contractors working in such environments. Individuals exposed to extreme heat conditions can result in occupational injury and illness such as cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Most common trades who are exposed to heat stress include roofers, brick layers and crane/excavating companies… just to name a few. Below are some tips to help prevent individuals from becoming exposed to such heat related illnesses.

When involved in strenuous activities, the body begins to sweat and that is a good thing. The body sweats to cool and regulate core temperatures. However, individuals who sweat consistently during vigorous activity are at a greater risk of heat related symptoms. As the body temperatures rises, salt composites are removed as sweating occurs resulting in heat cramps to the individual. If the body cannot control its core temperature as it continues to rise; the sweating mechanism begins to fail and will not allow the body to cool resulting in a heat stroke to occur. Extreme heat can cause serious injury to the brain and or death can occur.

Symptoms involved with heat stress hazards include:

Heat Cramps

Muscle Pain in the abdomen, arms and legs


Heat Exhaustion

Heavy sweating

Extreme weakness



Pale or flushed complexion


Heat Stroke

Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating



Throbbing headache

Slurred speech


When individuals experience such symptoms as described above, immediately attend to the individual. Begin by moving the individual into a shaded area and notify the site foreman or supervisor and/or call 9-1-1. Provide the individual with towels soaked in water and place under arm pits and thighs to cool the core temperature (if the individual is exposed to heat cramps, provide the worker with sports drinks to replenish electrolytes to the body).

Express to workers who are exposed to sun exposures or extreme heat to wear light color or loose fitting clothing to allow the body to breath throughout the work schedule.  Provide additional breaks for workers to keep them hydrated and alert.  Encourage individuals to continue to replenish their bodies after work while at home.  By weighing yourself each morning prior to work and again after work will provide you with evidence of how much fluid you need to drink to keep your body hydrated.

By providing these simple tips to your employees it will help provide a safe summer and raise awareness about the heat related stress that occurs with extreme temperatures.