As summer temperatures continue across the country, many workers are likely thankful to work in an air-conditioned building. However, for those who work outside, heat-related illness at work is a genuine concern. Heat illnesses come in a wide range of severity and can affect anyone regardless of their age or physical fitness.
Employers are responsible for protecting against heat illness
Federal law requires employers to provide a safe workplace, including protecting employees from extreme heat. Heat illness prevention programs provide adequate water, rest, and shade as well as provide new workers with an adjustment period to acclimate to high temperatures.
Employees working outside are often at the highest risk of heat-related illness, such as those in:
- Oil and gas well operations
Workers who perform their duties indoors can also be at risk if they work under hot conditions, such as iron and steel plants, ceramic plants, or commercial kitchens.
How to spot heat illness
Heat-related illnesses vary in severity, from heat exhaustion to heat stroke – which can be deadly. Common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
- Cool, moist skin despite the heat
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle cramps
Heat stroke symptoms are more severe than heat exhaustion, including body temperature over 103 degrees Fahrenheit, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Heat stroke is a medical emergency. The Centers for Disease Control advise that someone with these symptoms should be moved to a cooler place while they wait for medical transport. If someone exhibits these symptoms, they should not be given anything to drink.
Work-related heat illness can qualify for workers’ compensation. If you or someone you know experienced heat exhaustion or heat stroke at work, consult an experienced workers’ comp attorney to learn more about your options.