Avoiding heat-related injuries at work
It’s that time of year when the heat starts to get to everyone — but those who can’t stay inside suffer the most. If you work outside in the relentless heat of summer, how can you protect yourself from heat-related injuries?
1. Recognize your risk.
You can’t protect yourself unless you’re conscious of the danger. Keep an eye on the weather report for increasing temperatures and high humidity. You’re at risk of trouble if you work outside, have little access to shade or air conditioning and/or have to do physical labor and wear any type of protective clothing. Your risk increases if you are older or not in good physical shape.
2. Take preventative measures.
If you can’t avoid the heat, take steps to stay hydrated. Your body sweats out a great deal of water and salts (electrolytes) when it’s hot. You need to replenish those regularly to avoid getting sick from the heat. You should drink a cup of water for every 15-20 minutes you’re in the heat. Eat regularly and consume some salty snacks to keep your body fluids and salts balanced.
3. Watch for early signs of illness.
Learn the early signs of heat-related illness in order to protect yourself. Dark yellow urine, for example, is a sign that you’re seriously dehydrated. If you start to get a headache, feel dizzy or weak, get out of the sun and heat as quickly as you can.
It’s also important to keep an eye on co-workers. Everybody on a job site should know the symptoms of heat exhaustion and stroke: irritability, confusion, vomiting, fainting, seizures and the inability to sweat.
4. Ask your employer for assistance.
A responsible employer is sensitive to the needs of his or her employees. If you work on a construction site or in an area that’s far removed from indoor shelter, ask your employer to provide a trailer with air conditioning for employee breaks and shelter. Employers should also make sure that employees get regular breaks and have access to water and ice.
If you’ve been the victim of heat-related illness at work, you may have an extended recovery time or be unable to return to work in the heat at all. If you’re having difficulty collecting workers’ compensation for your injury, talk to an attorney today.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Protecting Workers from Heat Stress,” accessed July 21, 2017