COMMENTARY

Summer Heat Can Be Deadly for Outdoor Workers

Brenda L. Jacklitsch, MS

June 29, 2011

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

In This Article

In the News: Heat Can Kill

Every summer we hear about them in the news -- children left in cars, elderly individuals living alone with no air conditioning, high school athletes at football practice, and scout leaders out camping -- individuals who become victims of extreme temperatures. According to a 2006 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 3442 heat-related deaths occurred in the United States between 1999 and 2003.[1]

What about our outdoor working population? Although we often think of outdoor workers as relatively young and healthy, any worker is at risk for heat-related illness or death as a result of the circumstances or environments in which they perform their jobs. From 1992 to 2006, 423 workers in agricultural and other industries reportedly died from exposure to environmental heat.[2]Outdoor workers are often at high risk for exposure to high temperatures and humidity. These workers include farmers, foresters, landscapers, groundskeepers, gardeners, painters, roofers, pavers, construction workers, laborers, mechanics, and any other individuals who work outdoors. Furthermore, some indoor workers may have duties in hot, confined spaces or may be performing arduous tasks that can raise body temperature and place them at risk for heat-related illnesses. Healthcare providers need to ask their patients about their working conditions to better assess whether a discussion about heat illnesses and prevention may be warranted.

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