Simple Solutions Blog

Preventing heat-related illnesses in construction

 June 22, 2023     UFG Insurance    Business  Read Time: 3 min


The warmest months of the calendar are just around the corner, and that means watching out for heat-related illnesses on the job.

The CDC attributes an average of 702 deaths and over 67,000 ER visits each year to heat-related illnesses, making them a significant risk to those working outdoors. Contractors and construction workers are some of the most common victims, due to their physically demanding jobs and the heavy personal protective equipment (PPE) they must wear. Their risk increases rapidly when temperatures soar to dangerous levels in the summer months.

That’s why contractors and construction workers need to take extra health and safety precautions when working in the heat. But what are heat-related illnesses, exactly, and how can you prevent them on the jobsite?

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke: What’s the difference?

While many use the terms interchangeably, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are not the same. These heat-related illnesses do share some symptoms, but they differ in severity and should not be treated in the same ways. In fact, mistreating them can be deadly.

Heat exhaustion
Heat exhaustion is a milder form of heat-related illness and is typically caused by dehydration due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. As the body attempts to cope with excessive water and salt loss, symptoms of heat exhaustion will begin to appear.

Those include:
  • Heavy sweating.
  • Weakness or fatigue.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shallow breathing.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea or vomiting. 
  • Slight body temperature elevation.
  • Muscle cramps.
Typically, heat exhaustion can be treated without medical intervention. While the person afflicted should be monitored, treatment includes rest, rehydration and cooling the body down by moving to a cooler environment or taking a cool bath.

Heat stroke
The line between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is drawn when the body's internal temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. 

At this extreme, the body is in a more severe and potentially life-threatening situation because its cooling mechanisms fail. Symptoms of heat stroke include: 
  • Confusion.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating.
  • Throbbing headache.
  • Seizures.
  • Loss of consciousness. 
Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention. So, if you’re not sure if you’re dealing with heat exhaustion or heat stroke, always err on the side of caution and dial 911 or call emergency personnel. Treatment for heat stroke usually includes intravenous fluids, medications and cold-water immersion.

Preventing heat-related illnesses

Knowing construction workers routinely spend long hours in the heat, jobsites need to operate with extra precautions in the hot summer months. What does this look like?

Supervisors need to ensure workers have the proper resources — water supplies, shade, PPE, etc. — to safely work in high temperatures. Meanwhile, workers should take responsibility for staying hydrated and identifying the symptoms listed above in their coworkers and themselves.

A few other ways construction workers can prevent heat-related illnesses on the job include:
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting, breathable clothing (such as cotton).
  • Build up to strenuous activity progressively.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest parts of the day.
  • Take frequent breaks in the shade or cool areas.
  • Drink water frequently.
  • Limit tasks that require the prolonged use of PPE.

UFG Risk Control consultants can help you navigate construction site questions and offer up best practices to keep your employees and jobsite safe. UFG insurance agents and policyholders, contact our Risk Control staff at 800-828-2705 or email us at for assistance.


The information provided is for informational purposes only. Every attempt is made to ensure that the information is accurate; however, it is not intended to replace professional advice. For more information, see Disclaimers & Other Legal Documents.