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Every year, thousands of workers become sick from heat stress. In some cases, these injuries can even be fatal. When people become dehydrated, their bodies lose the ability to sweat and cool down. As their core temperature continues to rise, internal body temperature can reach dangerous levels. Although many people associate dehydration with headaches and fatigue, symptoms of severe heat stress can include fainting, seizures, and even death.
Many people assume that heat injuries are related to a person’s failure to stay hydrated. But many heat injuries are caused by severe working conditions. Outdoor operations conducted in hot weather and direct sun, such as construction or landscaping, expose workers to the risk of heat-related illnesses. Additionally, employees who work in bakeries, factories, and chemical plants are often exposed to hot air temperatures indoors.
As the weather continues to warm, more workers will be exposed to both indoor and outdoor high heat conditions If proper precautions are taken, heat-related illnesses can be prevented. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) urges employers to keep employees safe with environmental and scheduling strategies for heat injury prevention.
There are a number of steps that employers can take to help prevent heat injuries. These include implementing engineering controls, monitoring work practices, supplying personal protective equipment, and providing workers with adequate training about heat injury risks.
Employers can reduce worker exposure to high heat situations by cooling the environment and increasing ventilation in the following ways:
For those environments that cannot be adequately cooled, workers will need several days of light labor to get acclimated to extreme heat conditions. Other preventative methods include scheduling heavy physical work at the coolest times of the day, and allowing employees to work in labor-rest cycles, with breaktimes spent rehydrating in the shade or some other cooler area.
When the body becomes overheated, a heat rash could develop. These tiny clusters of red bumps usually appear on the neck and upper chest. At the first sign of heat rash, it is important to move to a cooler, less humid space and keep the affected area dry.
Muscle cramping is another, more serious symptom of possible heat stress. Those who experience this should stop all activity at once, get to a cooler area, and drink plenty of fluids. If the cramping does not cease after cooling down, it is important to seek medical attention.
Heat injury prevention is not limited to the workplace. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heat illness is a leading cause of death among high school athletes.
Whether you find yourself on the ball field or in the workplace, recognizing the early signs of heat illness can reduce the chances of heat exhaustion or heat stroke and possibly save a life.
If you or a loved one has been injured at work, the Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow can help. We will work tirelessly to help you obtain the maximum compensation available for your circumstances. To schedule a free consultation, call our Wilmington office at 302-427-9500, our Bear office at 302-834-8484, or our Milford office at 302-422-6705, or you can contact us online. We represent injured workers throughout Delaware, including those in New Castle County and Sussex County.