Who is more likely to suffer from heat-related illness?

Pre-existing conditions may increase the risk o heat related illness

People are at greater risk of the effects of heat-related illness if they:

  • are overweight
  • are physically unfit
  • are pregnant
  • have consumed drugs or alcohol
  • are over 45 years old (research suggests workers over 45 years of age experience a lower ability to work in a hot environment, which can make them a particularly vulnerable group as heat intensifies)
  • suffer from heart or lung disease
  • take certain medications or are on a fluid-restricted diet
  • aren’t used to working in the heat.

Research also indicates younger workers can be more susceptible to heat-related illness – the possible reasons being physically strenuous tasks combined with a lack of skills or experience and a reluctance to raise problems with supervisors.

Common occupations that could expose workers to heat-related illness include (but aren’t limited to):

Work

Risk factors

Fire fighters and other emergency workers (eg: air ambulance; etc)

  • intense heat
  • strenuous physical activity
  • heavy equipment
  • long hours
  • protective clothing worn

Construction workers

  • working in direct sun, possibly with other radiant heat sources
  • strenuous physical activity, using heavy equipment
  • inadequate sun protection and PPE worn
  • incomplete buildings not providing shade
  • inadequate facilities to allow workers respite from direct heat
  • inadequate ventilation and air movement when workers are inside buildings and spaces (allowing temperatures to build up).

Gardeners, landscapers

  • working in direct sun
  • strenuous physical activity
  • using heavy equipment
  • inadequate sun protection and PPE worn

Farmers, agricultural workers

  • working in direct sun
  • long hours
  • strenuous physical activity, using heavy equipment
  • inadequate sun protection and PPE worn
  • working alone, where the effects of heat-related ilness may be less likely to be detected and more difficult to address.

External house painters

  • working in direct sun
  • strenuous physical activity
  • inadequate sun protection and PPE worn

Kitchen and laundry workers

  • hot and humid environment with little air movement
  • PPE  worn (eg: plastic apron)

Foundry workers

  • hot and humid environment with little air movement
  • radiant heat
  • strenuous physical activity
  • heavy PPE worn

Boiler room workers

  • hot and humid environment with little air movement

Work in confined spaces, including ceiling and roof cavities

  • hot and humid environment with little air movement
  • possibly PPE worn

Some factory workers

  • hot and humid environment with little air movement

The common factors in these high-risk industries are the combination of hard physical work and being exposed to hot (and/or humid) environments, either outdoors in the sun or in indoor confined hot spaces.

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