The Heat Is On: Why Heat-Related Illness Training Is a Must

June 19, 2023 | What's Hot | 5 min read

Week 3 in our National Safety Month series covers how to avoid and respond to heat-related illnesses at work—and why proper training can cool risks. Read our posts from week 1 and week 2.

Be it Miami Beach or Fairbanks, Alaska, summer is the season for heat-related illnesses. When hard work — like roofing, hot stone pizza-making, or landscaping — is coupled with hot temps, serious illness and even fatalities can truly happen anywhere. The issue is so serious that the current administration has even issued federal initiatives to protect workers and communities from extreme heat.

But when it comes to the workplace, the onus is truly on the employer to educate its employees. According to OSHA, which has a Heat Illness Prevention campaign, nearly 75% of all heat-illness fatalities happen during the first week of employment. Which is why proper training — on the first day of work — is crucial.

The Most At-Risk Fields for Heat-Related Illnesses

Though any field can be at risk for heat-related illnesses during the hottest summer months, in some industries, it simply happens more often.

And according to the National Library of Medicine, “several international studies have reported that individuals from ethnic minorities are at increased risk of heat-related illness, for reasons that are not often discussed.” That means proper heat training should be offered in multiple languages.

Below is a list of industries often prone to risk:



Bakeries, kitchens and laundries (with heat-generating appliances)

Construction—road work

Electrical utilities (particularly boiler rooms)


Fire service


Iron and steel mills, and foundries

Mail and package delivery

Manufacturing with hot local heat sources like furnaces

Oil and gas well operations


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Most Common Heat-Related Illnesses

When people experience heat-related illness, most often it's heat exhaustion. This happens when people take in enough water or salt.

Other illnesses to look out for?

  • Heat stroke — fatal if not treated, both classic and exertional heat stroke are characterized by high body temperature, rapid heart rate, slurred speech, confusion, unconsciousness, and convulsions.
  • Rhabdomyolysis — symptoms include muscle cramps or pain, weakness, decreased range of motion and dark-colored urine.
  • Heat syncope — usually results in a collapse or loss of consciousness without an increase in body temperature or extreme sweating.
  • Heat rash — a less serious heat-related illness, but still uncomfortable, a heat rash appears on the body in small red bumps, usually on the chest and neck, in the groin area, and in the elbow creases.

According to the CDC, heat-related illnesses can also include cardiovascular and respiratory complications, renal failure, electrolyte imbalance, kidney stones, negative impacts on fetal health, and preterm birth.

How to Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses at Work

The first and best solution for preventing heat-related illnesses is to ensure all employees have heat illness prevention training available on their first day of work. Along with proper training, employers should also encourage employees to take the following precautions:

  1. Hydrate
    Adequate hydration is crucial to avoiding illness. Provide water for employees during hot days outside or in, and encourage workers to drink water frequently, even if they’re not thirsty. Note that excessive consumption of caffeinated or sugary beverages can contribute to dehydration.
  2. Wear appropriate clothing
    Provide or encourage employees to wear lightweight, breathable clothing made of natural fibers, like cotton or linen. Light-colored attire that reflects sunlight instead of absorbing it is a smart option, as well as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses for extra protection.
  3. Take scheduled breaks
    Frequent, organized breaks in shaded or air-conditioned areas should be a mandate. These breaks allow employees to cool down and recover. Encourage a workplace culture of transparency and support, where employees feel comfortable taking a break anytime they feel overheated.
  4. Create comfortable work environments
    If schedules allow, adjust work windows to avoid peak heat hours. Use fans, air conditioning, or other cooling devices to maintain a comfortable temperature indoors. Implement engineering controls like ventilation and insulation to reduce heat in work areas.
  5. Encourage sun protection
    Preach the gospel of sunscreen with a high SPF in the workplace. Remind employees to apply and reapply as needed. A broad-brimmed hat, UV-protective clothing, and sunglasses can also shield workers from harmful rays.
  6. Education and training
    Comprehensive training should include heat-related illnesses, symptoms, and prevention strategies. Employees must be aware of the risks and know how to respond during heat-related emergencies.

What Makes Skillsoft Heat-Related Illness Training So Effective

Along with a complete catalog on safety and compliance training, Skillsoft has a dedicated collection of heat-safety content.

In addition to formal (classroom or online) training, content includes heat hazards, control measures, and site-specific procedures, covered in monthly or weekly safety meetings and also in toolbox sessions that take place prior to beginning a task or project. Skillsoft's micro-learning can also help your team. A few relevant topics include:

  • Heat Stress Impact: Precautions and Safe Work Practices
  • Heat Stress Impact: Symptoms
  • Heat Stress Impact: Treatment

Plus, Skillsoft’s recently updated Heat Stress courses includes a new scenario video which won a Bronze Stevie award.

Whatever training program you choose, don’t let a heat-related illness or fatality happen on your watch. The heat should not be taken lightly, and with proper knowledge, your teams can stay cool and healthy.