With summer in full swing, it is more important than ever for anyone who works outside to understand the dangers of working in extreme heat and how to avoid heat-related injury and death. Just last month, two construction workers here in Missouri died after working outside in the heat. One of the workers was a 55-year-old iron worker who died while working at Monsanto in Chesterfield. The other worker was a 49-year-old metal worker who was working near the BJC campus. Investigators with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are currently looking into the deaths of the two workers.
Dangers of Working in Extreme Heat
Working in extreme heat can be very dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. Heat-related illnesses can result in severe injury and even death. Heat-related illnesses include the following:
- Heat Cramps – When you sweat, in addition to fluids, you lose body salts. If the salt levels in your muscles is too low, it can lead to cramps. Cramps can be extremely painful and usually occur in the muscles you are using most while working. Heat cramps can strike while you are working or after work.
- Heat Rash – If sweat does not evaporate from the skin quickly enough, it can cause painful skin irritation. Heat rash usually appears as a cluster of red bumps on the neck and chest.
- Heat Exhaustion – When you sweat heavily, your body can quickly lose too much salt and water, which can lead to heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include sweating heavily, fast heartbeat, light headedness/dizziness, thirst, headache, vomiting, irritability, nausea and weakness.
- Heat Stroke – This is a very serious heat-related illness that can be fatal. Heat stroke happens when the body is no longer able to properly control its core temperature. It usually involves the body being unable to sweat anymore, which limits the body’s ability to get rid of excess heat. Heat stroke can result in loss of consciousness, seizures, confusion and death.
Tips for Working in Extreme Heat
If you can avoid working in extreme heat, you should. If you cannot avoid working outside in the heat, here are a few tips that you can use to avoid suffering a heat-related illness as a result:
- Drink a cup of water every 20 minutes or, at least, two to four cups of water per hour to stay hydrated
- Avoid drinking beverages that contain alcohol, caffeine or lots of sugar
- Take frequent rest breaks in cool areas indoors or in shaded areas outdoors
- Try to only work outdoors either early in the morning or in the evenings
- Wear sunscreen that is rated SPF 15 or higher
- Wear a hat, light-colored clothing that is loose fitting and sunglasses
What Should Employers Do to Prevent Heat-Related Injury and Death on the Job
Employers have a responsibility to provide their employees with a safe work environment. Heat-related illnesses are often preventable. Therefore, companies must do everything they can to help ensure their employees are protected from suffering heat-related injuries, such as:
- Try to schedule work that will take place in hot environments during the cooler months
- Provide your employees with training for working in extreme heat
- If an outdoor job will be physically demanding, schedule extra workers or hire relief workers to avoid overworking employees
- Use scheduling to properly acclimate your employees to warmer weather gradually
- Make sure to schedule regular rest breaks in cool areas indoors or in shaded areas outdoors throughout the workday
- Ensure your employees always have access to water and are drinking it regularly throughout the day
If you have questions about what to do if you or someone you love suffers a heat-related illness on-the-job in Missouri or Illinois, call our personal injury attorneys today to schedule a free consultation. The information provided by Walton Telken, LLC in this Blog is not intended to be legal advice, but merely provides general information related to common legal issues. This Blog, and the information contained within it, is Attorney Advertisement. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements. Past results afford no guarantee of future results. Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.