Overheated? Here’s Some Timely Advice for Heading Off Heat-Related Illnesses


Man looking at a smoking engine in his car

Unless your fairground is lucky enough to be on the California coast, chances are it’s really hot where you are. But even with daily temperatures climbing into the 80s, 90s and 100s, there’s still work that needs to be done outside.  What to do? Let’s check in with Tom Amberson, CFSA’s risk control manager, for a hot-weather refresher course that will help everyone keep their cool:

You and your colleagues are at a greater risk of heat illness (when your body holds in more heat than it can release) if you:

  • are dehydrated (dehydration is your worst enemy)
  • aren’t used to working in the heat
  • are in poor health or are older
  • have previously experienced a heat-related illness
  • are on a low-salt diet
  • take medications or over-the-counter drugs

And temperatures don’t even have to be in the 100s to be potentially dangerous. According to the National Weather Service Heat Index, a temperature of 90 degrees in the shade with 30% humidity calls for a warning of “extreme caution” for heat illnesses including heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke. When it’s above 100 degrees in the shade, the Heat Index registers “extreme danger.” In either case, the prudent choice is to limit work or to stop working outside altogether.

To help prevent heat-related illnesses, health experts recommend wearing lightweight clothing, drinking plenty of cool water BEFORE heading out to work as well as while working (aim for at least one 8 oz. cup every 20 minutes) and taking frequent rest breaks in the shade or a cool area when working in the sun.  Also try to schedule outdoor work for early mornings, when possible, and to avoid heated areas.

To stay hydrated, choose water or sports beverages over sodas and other drinks containing caffeine or sugar. Avoid alcohol altogether as the more you drink, the more dehydrated you will become.

Symptoms that could indicate trouble ahead include profuse sweating or no sweating, a pale or flushed complexion and flu-like symptoms such as sudden weakness, nausea, fever, chills and headaches. Other red-flag symptoms are dizziness, loss of coordination, blurry vision, confusion, fainting, vomiting and seizures. If you or a co-worker experience any of these symptoms or if you simply begin feeling ill, stop working, tell someone and take a break in a shady, cool area. Workers suffering from painful muscle spasms or tired muscles should also take a break in the shade and drink cool water or a sports beverage.  Do not give or take salt tablets or fever medications.

If a co-worker loses consciousness, move him or her to a shaded area and immediately seek medical help. Until that help arrives, cool the worker with fanning, by soaking his or her clothing with cool water and by applying cool compresses. Do not provide your co-worker with anything to drink.

If your fair is a member of CFSA’s Workers’ Compensation Pool Program, talk to your risk control specialist about on-site training and/or help developing a written heat-illness prevention program. The written program can be a stand-alone program or incorporated into your fair’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program.

Questions? Please contact Tom Amberson at (916) 263-6180 or tamberson@cfsa.org.