Summer is finally here, and many people are eager to get outside and enjoy the weather. There is, however, a greater risk of developing certain illnesses for those who work outdoors all day in the heat. Thousands of workers are affected each summer by heat-related illnesses and injuries, but they are completely avoidable. Employers and employees alike can take steps to reduce the risk of heat related illness by following the advice outlined below.
Be aware of the potential dangers.
Generally speaking, the body tries to maintain a stable internal temperature in order to keep itself in balance. By circulating more blood to and from the skin’s surface and sweating, the body releases heat when it gets hotter. Heat from the blood will radiate into the air if the air temperature is lower than the skin temperature. However, if the air is too warm, the body’s ability to regulate temperature is compromised, and heat-related illnesses can result.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises workers to take additional precautions when temperatures exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit at the workplace. Heat-related illnesses can affect anyone. However, there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of overheating, including:
- Body weight
- Certain medical conditions
- Certain medications
- Alcohol and drug use
- Physical fitness
Notifying your employer if you believe you are more susceptible to heat-related illnesses can help you receive more frequent breaks or other workplace accommodations
Keeping a Cool Head and Keeping a Drink in Your Hands
Employees need to be protected from the heat of the day by their employers. When it’s hot outside, workers who spend most of their time outside should be given more frequent rest breaks, have access to cool or shaded areas, and possibly reschedule some jobs for cooler times of the day.
Keeping hydrated is essential, especially when exercising in hot weather. Workers should drink one cup of fluids every 15 to 30 minutes to avoid becoming dehydrated. Even before you start working, make sure you’re properly hydrated.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and wear the right clothing!
A dangerously high temperature can be caused by wearing clothing that is too tight or constricting. Lightweight, light-colored, and loose clothing will help you stay cool when the weather gets hot. Make sure to wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat to protect yourself from the sun.
When you get a sunburn, your body’s ability to cool itself is compromised, and this can lead to dehydration. Always apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 before going outside to work, and reapply throughout the day.
What to Do in an Emergency Situation
Employees who show signs of heat-related illness should be taken care of immediately in order to avoid worsening of their symptoms. Provide the worker with water and a sports drink to replenish their electrolytes in a cool place, such as an air-conditioned room indoors.
Place cool, wet cloths on the skin of the person to help them cool down. Immediately call 9-1-1 for help if their condition worsens, such as if they lose consciousness or are unable to drink. The brain and internal organs can swell as a result of heat stroke, which can be fatal.
The DYS Law Group is ready to help you or a loved one if you or someone you care about is injured at work during the summer. Our California workers’ compensation lawyers are available at (310) 473-2355.