4 Dangers of Extreme Heat Exposure as a Maritime Worker

4 Dangers of Extreme Heat Exposure as a Maritime Worker

Boat workers often find themselves doing strenuous work in hot and humid conditions. The sun can be extremely punishing when out on the open sea as it reflects off the water. Below deck, it can be hot even in the winter months if you are working in certain parts of the ship, such as the engine room.

Even a somewhat mild injury aboard a ship on the open water can potentially have serious consequences. If the injury can not be treated aboard the ship, the ability to get to a hospital in a timely manner is often quite limited.

Knowing the risks associated with heat exposure and how to recognize the signs are important first steps for safety while at sea. With this knowledge, you can often prevent a dangerous situation. Knowing the first aid procedures in case prevention fails could easily end up saving a life.

Heat Rash

Heat rash is of particular risk in a humid environment. This condition occurs due to sweat failing to evaporate from the skin. Heat rash can be recognized by patches of red bumps on the skin. The rash is typically found on the neck, upper chest, and anywhere the skin rubs against itself.

As far as heat conditions go, heat rash is a fairly mild one. However, that doesn’t mean that it should be neglected. If a worker shows signs of heat rash, they should be reassigned to a cooler and dryer environment if possible and should use a towel to keep the area dry.

Heat Cramps

One of the biggest problems with heat cramps is that they often do not occur until after the excessive heat exposure has already occurred. People are often hit with these painful muscle cramps and spasms during the night or while relaxing. Heat cramps are caused by a loss of fluids and electrolytes, through sweating. These cramps typically occur in the abdomen, arms, and calves.

If a worker is complaining of heat cramps, they should be moved to a cool area out of the sun if possible. Hydration is essential when it comes to fighting heat cramps, so getting the worker water or another cold beverage is crucial. The worker should be given a few hours to rest before returning to physically demanding work. If the cramps do not subside, the worker may require medical attention.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. This condition is caused by a loss of water and salt from the body caused by excess sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, headache, dizziness, weakness, irritability, nausea, and thirst.

If a worker shows signs of heat exhaustion, they should be moved to a cool area out of the sun as quickly as possible. The worker should be given plenty of cold water or other hydrating beverage. Remove any excess clothing, fan air on the worker, and wet them with cool water. Apply ice or cold compresses to the armpits and groin.

If the worker’s condition continues to deteriorate or they do not show signs of improvement within one hour, get them to a medical professional as soon as possible. If they do show signs of improvement, instruct them to take the remainder of the day off and rest.


Heatstroke is the most serious of heat-related injuries. Heatstroke usually occurs following untreated heat exhaustion. Heatstroke is brought on when the body is no longer able to regulate the body’s core temperature. Excess heat builds up within the body, and without medical treatment, heatstroke can easily lead to death.

Symptoms of heatstroke are typically severe and easy to recognize. Extreme body temperature, confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures are all clear indicators of heatstroke. If a worker is suffering from heatstroke, it is essential that they receive medical assistance as soon as possible. If out on open water without a doctor, put out a distress call and head for the nearest port as quickly as possible.

While waiting for medical attention, get the worker into a cool area out of the sun. Follow all of the same steps you would follow for heat exhaustion to get the worker hydrated and their body cooled as quickly as possible.

Who Is Responsible?

Maritime employers are responsible for providing a reasonably safe work environment. While there are some inherent risks in maritime work, there is still plenty that can be done to protect workers. If you or a loved one suffered a heat-related injury due to negligence on the part of an employer, contact a maritime injury lawyer in New Orleans.

Heatstroke can leave a worker with serious long-term health issues. The medical bills associated with these conditions can be very high, especially if you had to get an emergency evacuation off of a ship in open water. It is essential to get the compensation you deserve to get back on your feet after this type of injury.



South Florida Caribbean News

The Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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