Jul 2020

The dangers of working in hot conditions

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Summer is in full swing, and so far, this season has been a hot one. During the month of July, we have seen consistent temperatures well into the 90s. This can be dangerous for those who have to work outdoors or in confined spaces with no air conditioning.

Heat-related injuries and illnesses are common among construction workers, agricultural workers, landscapers, bakers, cooks, maintenance workers, manufacturing workers and boiler room workers.

If you work in hot conditions, it’s important to understand the health risks and ways to lower the risk of an injury or illness.

What types of injuries and illnesses are caused by heat?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related injuries can range from minor to severe.

The most serious illness caused by working in hot conditions is heat stroke. When the body can’t regulate its temperature through sweating and other mechanisms, workers may suffer seizures or even death. The warning signs of heat stroke include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mental confusion or disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness

If any of these symptoms occur, it’s critical that you stop working and get immediate medical attention.

A similar, but less severe, heat-related condition is heat exhaustion. This is often caused by dehydration due to excessive sweating. The warning signs of heat exhaustion may include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Physical weakness
  • Extreme sweating and thirst
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Changes in mood
  • Decreased urine output

Other common heat-related conditions include:

  • Rhabdomyolysis: Heat stress and prolonged labor causes muscle tissue to breakdown. This can result in irregular heartbeat, seizures and kidney damage.
  • Heat syncope: Standing for too long or standing from a sitting position during hot conditions can lead to fainting.
  • Miliaria or heat rash: Excessive sweating and exposure to heat that irritates the skin can result in red clusters or small pimples.
  • Heat-related cramps: Muscle cramps can occur when workers lose excessive amounts of salt through sweating.

How can heat-related conditions lead to workplace accidents?

The heat-related conditions mentioned above not only require prompt medical attention, they can result in workplace accidents due to fainting, loss of balance, fatigue, dizziness and weakness.

Some examples of workplace accidents linked to heat-related conditions may include:

  • Falls from heights or same-level falls
  • Accidents with heavy machinery or equipment
  • Transportation incidents

How to prevent heat-related conditions on the job

OSHA offers some tips on how to lower the risk of sustaining a heat-related illness while working, including:

  • Drinking plenty of water — one cup every 15-20 minutes
  • Assigning lighter tasks to employees and encouraging frequent breaks
  • Wearing light or loose-fitting clothes
  • Ensuring that indoor facilities are properly ventilated
  • Learning the signs of heat-related conditions and knowing when to provide first-aid to other workers
  • Monitoring workers with certain health conditions

What should I do if I sustained a heat-related injury on the job?

If you sustained a heat-related injury or illness at work, it’s important that you notify your employer and seek immediate medical attention. Also be prepared to take some time off from work while you recover.

If you’re concerned about the cost of medical care and lost wages, just know that you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim. To learn how to get started, contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl and schedule your free case evaluation.

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