Any worker can be at risk of heat-related injuries in the summer, but maritime workers could suffer heat exhaustion year-round. Jones Act employees perform their duties around the globe, suffering unseasonably warm temperatures above and below decks. In these conditions, heat-related illnesses are a regular occurrence, and can have potentially deadly results.

Heat-Related Illness That Affect Jones Act Seamen

Maritime Workers in Full Gear While Waiting on DockAnyone who works in a hot environment—such as the blistering sun or humid confines of a seagoing vessel—is at risk of suffering heat-related illnesses. Prolonged exposure to these conditions can put a strain on the heart and lungs, which worsens with work involving heavy lifting or wearing multiple layers of clothing. Heat illnesses that may qualify a Jones Act seamen for maintenance and cure include:

Heat rash.

Wet skin can rub against itself if sweat cannot evaporate, causing painful and irritating red bumps. Heat rash is especially common in workers who wear bulky equipment or work in a confined space. If the heat index rises over 90, workers could also suffer sun stroke or muscle spasms in the legs and arms (heat cramps).

Heat exhaustion.

The loss of fluids or salt through heavy sweating can cause heat exhaustion, resulting in headaches, dizziness, nausea, excessive thirst, and irritability. Heat exhaustion is common with a heat index of 105 or more, particularly if workers are engaged in constant physical activity.

Heat stroke.

Heat stroke is a potentially fatal heat illness that results when a body cannot cool itself through sweating. At this stage, the body loses the ability to sweat, causing the internal temperature to rise unchecked. Workers may become disoriented, lose consciousness, or suffer a seizure—especially if the heat index rises over 125.

Maritime employers have a duty to protect workers from heat-related dangers. This includes performing a hazard assessment, providing personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensuring that workers drink plenty of water and take rest breaks throughout the day.

If someone else’s negligence caused your injury at sea, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer, or fill out our online contact form to set up your no-obligation consultation. To learn more, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.