Recent heat wave raises risk of workplace heat deaths

by Eric Pearson

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, July 2012 was the warmest month in the U.S. since the agency began keeping records in 1895. The recent nation-wide heat-wave broke a record set in 1936.

With this record heat come potentially serious health and safety concerns, among them concerns relating to workplace safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), 423 workers engaged in outdoor occupations suffered heat-related fatalities during the 15-year period from 1992 to 2006.

Workers exposed to extreme heat may suffer from heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or heat syncope. Heat syncope occurs when a person suffers a fainting episode or dizziness caused by extreme heat. Heat exhaustion occurs when a person suffers exhaustion due to excessive dehydration. Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related ailment, occurs when the body becomes unable to control its temperature: the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating mechanism fails, and the body is unable to cool down.

When heat stroke occurs, the body temperature can rise to 106 degrees Fahrenheit or higher within 10 to 15 minutes. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if emergency treatment is not given promptly. Among the symptoms of heat stroke are the following:

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech

There are steps workers can take in order to minimize the possibility of suffering a heat-related ailment. Among them are the following:

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing such as cotton
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of day
  • Take more breaks in extreme heat and humidity
  • Drink water frequently, enough that you never become thirsty
  • Avoid alcohol and drinks with large amounts of caffeine or sugar
  • Monitor your physical condition and that of your co-workers

If you or a loved one has suffered from a heat-related illness in the workplace, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact the Board Certified personal injury attorneys* at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out our no-cost online case evaluation form.


Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

by Eric Pearson

Eric Pearson is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P who handles commercial and personal injury lawsuits. Eric has been selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication.