How outdoor workers can stay safe in extreme heat

Jul 20 2016

Temperatures across much of the U.S. are expected to spike dramatically over the next few days, including here in Colorado. Indeed, the forecast is currently calling for the Denver metropolitan area to see the mercury rise to as high as 96 degrees by Friday.

It’s important to understand that while these high temperatures may seem like nothing more than annoyance for many workers — perhaps resulting in having to make sure the air conditioning is set and some wrinkled clothes — it can nevertheless pose a very serious and potentially deadly health risk for others.

If you don’t believe it, consider that statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveal that in 2014 alone, over 2,630 workers endured some form of heat illness while another 18 actually died from heat stroke.

In light of this reality, today’s post will take a closer look at two of the more dangerous forms of heat illnesses that can strike those men and women who work outdoors: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Our purpose in doing so is to help these workers understand what to be on the lookout for so that they can protect themselves and their co-workers.

Heat exhaustion

When it comes to heat exhaustion, the symptoms and signs that should raise alarms among workers are headaches, weakness, nausea, dizziness, heavy sweating, confusion and a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees.

OSHA advises that those with these symptoms should be taken to a shaded area, provided with cool water to drink via frequent sips, and have cold compresses applied to their face, neck and head.

It also indicates that those workers with these symptoms should not return to work until they are given a proper medical evaluation and carefully monitored until this happens.

Heat stroke

When it comes to heat stroke, the symptoms and signs that should raise alarms among workers are confusion, extremely high temperatures accompanied by the absence of sweating (the body’s temperature regulating system fails), seizures and loss of consciousness.

OSHA advises that a heat stroke is considered a medical emergency and, as such, 911 must be called immediately.  It advises that until help arrives, the stricken worker should be taken to a shaded area with circulating air, and covered with cool wet towels and/or ice. Should these be unavailable, it recommends soaking the worker’s clothing with cool water.

In our next post on this topic, we’ll discuss some steps that outdoor workers can take to protect themselves from heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and some steps that employers must take to keep them safe.

If you’ve been seriously injured in a workplace accident and would like to learn more about your options concerning work comp benefits, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.