What workers need to do to stay safe and avoid heat exhaustion
As summertime starts to heat up around the country, workers need to be careful about suffering from heat stress or heat exhaustion due to working in hot weather conditions. Each year, numerous workers sustain serious injuries or illnesses on the job due to working in dangerously hot working conditions. That’s why it’s critical workers know the risks and what to do to prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses at work.
What are common heat-related illnesses?
Work-related heat illnesses or injuries often occur when people work in weather conditions that regularly exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, heat-related illnesses can also occur at lower temperatures depending on many other factors, including the age and pre-existing health conditions of workers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heat-related illnesses can cover a wide range, including:
- Heat stroke – Stroke caused by working in severe, hot conditions.
- Heat exhaustion – Severe, physical exhaustion caused by working in excessive heat.
- Rhabdomyolysis – Muscle damage caused by prolonged physical labor in high heat.
- Heat syncope – Fainting due to working in high heat.
- Heat cramps – Severe muscle cramps, often due to dehydration.
- Heat rash – Skin condition often caused by excessive sweating.
These are just a small sampling of the some of the illnesses or injuries workers can suffer due to working in dangerously hot conditions. Many more workplace injuries and illnesses are common and can cause permanent physical damage or even death in certain, extreme circumstances.
What are the warning signs of heat-related illnesses?
Each heat-related illness is different, but many have similar symptoms. Some of the common warning signs of heat-related illnesses include:
- Loss of balance
- Excessive sweating
- Difficulty standing up
- Elevated body temperature
- Sudden stop in sweating
If something doesn’t seem right with yourself or a co-worker, seek immediate medical attention. Your health and well-being could be at risk.
Can wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) cause heat-related illnesses?
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many workers must now wear personal protective equipment (PPE) for their own health and safety. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, many workers wore PPE as part of their job.
While this equipment can protect workers from deadly viruses like the coronavirus, PPE can contribute to heat-related illnesses in certain circumstances. This is especially true if workers wearing PPE work in jobs where they are at a high risk of sustaining heat-related illnesses or injuries.
Are certain jobs more susceptible to heat-related illnesses?
While a wide range of workers can sustain heat-related illnesses or injuries, certain jobs are more susceptible to work-related injuries due to working in high heat environments. These jobs include:
- Construction workers
- Landscape workers
- Factory workers
- Kitchen workers
- Agricultural workers
- Boiler room workers
Whatever type of work you do, make sure you take steps to protect your health and safety to avoid heat-related illnesses or injuries.
What can workers do to prevent heat-related illnesses on the job?
Each job and profession is different and often presents its own unique challenges. There are certain things people can do to prevent work-related heat illnesses, however, like:
- Take frequent breaks during excessively hot weather or working conditions.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Increase air velocity in excessive hot working conditions.
- Have workers work in groups and monitor each other.
- Gradually increase working in hot conditions over a 7 to 14-day period.
- If working outside wear long sleeve light colored light weight shirts.
There are many other steps workers can and should take to prevent heat-related injuries or illnesses. The bottom line is workers and companies need to take precautions in order to avoid potentially-dangerous working conditions.
What should I do if I suffer from a heat-related illness at work?
Even if you take the necessary steps to avoid a heat-related illness or injury at work, these work-related injuries can still occur. If you sustained a heat-related illness or injury on the job, we strongly recommend taking the following steps.
- Seek immediate medical attention.
- Tell your employer you sustained a heat-related injury or illness at work.
- Contact an experienced workplace injury attorney in your area.
Don’t simply assume that your employer has your best interests at heart. Protect your rights and learn more about your legal options from an experienced lawyer familiar with the rules and regulations governing workplace injuries in your community. Our experienced San Diego workplace injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert A. McLaughlin have years of experience handling complex legal cases. Schedule your free case review today at our law firm.