Heat-related Illness

Download a copy of this alert

High temperatures and sunshine can be a wonderful thing when enjoying time at the lake or on the beach but can cause serious health issues for people working outdoors. The wide variety of job roles and often rigorous physical activity in forestry can put workers at risk for heat-related illness if not managed properly.

Types of heat-related illnesses

The most serious types of heat-related illnesses experienced by workers are heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

  • Heat exhaustion, which generally develops when a person is working or exercising in hot weather and does not drink enough liquids.
  • Heat stroke, which occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature and body temperature continues to rise, often to 40.6°C (105°F) or higher. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Even with immediate treatment, it can be life-threatening or cause serious long-term problems.


 Symptoms of heat exhaustion may start suddenly, and include:

Heat exhaustion may quickly develop into heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include:

Skin is pale, cool and moist

Nausea or irritability


Muscle cramps or weakness

Feeling faint




 Heavy sweating

High body temperature

Skin that may be red, hot and dry

Heavy sweating or sweating may have stopped


Loss of consciousness


Nausea or vomiting

Fast heart rate

Difficulty breathing

Very high body temperature

What to do

Prevention is the best option for dealing with heat-related illnesses in the workplace. Prevention includes taking adequate rest periods in a cool location, acclimatizing to the heat, adjusting the type and timing of work, and drinking plenty of water. WorkSafeBC has several resources for preventing heat-related illnesses.

If prevention did not work and a worker is dealing with heat stress, consider the following:

First aid for heat exhaustion includes:

First aid for heat stroke includes:

Call first aid. Stay with the person until help arrives.

Move to a cooler, shaded location.

Remove as many clothes as possible (including socks and shoes).

Apply cool, wet compresses/towels or ice to head, face or neck. Spraying with cool water and fanning will also help.

Encourage the person to drink water, clear juice, or a sports drink.

Do not cool too much. If the person starts to shiver, stop cooling.

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. Get medical treatment immediately.

Stay with the person until help arrives.

Move to a cooler, shaded location.

Remove as many clothes as possible (including socks and shoes).

Wet the person’s skin and clothing with cool water. Continue to cool during transportation.

Apply cold, wet compresses/towels or ice to head, face, neck, armpits and groin.

Do not try to force the person to drink liquids.

Additional Information:

HealthLinkBC – Heat-related Illnesses                         

HealthLinkBC – Heat Stroke             

Fit to Log Poster – Maintaining Hydration        

Incident Alert – Heat Exhaustion

Incident Alert – Worker Heat Illness