Heat stress can have a substantial impact on employee safety in the workplace. Not only can heat stress cause a variety of illnesses, but it can also leave a person with life-altering disabilities or even cause death. Each year, there is an average of 600 heat-related deaths. Of those 600, 400 are identified as the underlying cause while 200 are identified as a contributing cause. If you’ve been injured at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
What is Heat Stress?
Heat stress is when the body’s internal temperature is above the average of 98.6°F due to a combination of metabolic heat, environmental factors, and clothing. Heat stress can lead to a number of heat-related illnesses and cause potential injuries while on the job.
Heat Stroke occurs when the body’s internal temperature quickly rises and is unable to come down. Symptoms include confusion, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, dry skin, excessive sweating, and seizures. If left untreated, heat strokes can cause permanent disabilities or even result in death.
Heat Exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive loss of water and salt. This usually happens due to an exorbitant amount of sweating. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, and decreased urine output.
Other common heat-related illnesses include rhabdomyolysis, heat syncope, heat cramps, and heat rash.
Factors to Consider
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize the factors that increase the risk of heat stroke. Some people are at a greater risk of heat stress, including those who are aged 65 years or older, are overweight, have heart disease or high blood pressure, or take medications that are affected by extreme heat. Certain work environments also come with an increased risk of heat stress such as construction workers, firefighters, farmers, miners, bakery workers, boiler room workers, factory workers, and more. Beyond a person’s physical condition and place of work, the following factors have also been known to increase the risk of heat stress in the workplace:
- High temperature
- Humidity level
- Direct exposure to the sun
- Indoor exposure to radiant heat (furnaces, ovens, etc.)
- Lack of airflow
- Physical exertion
- Heavy personal protective equipment
Help Prevent Heat Stress
Heat stress is a serious concern for many workers, especially during the summer months. All employers should implement proactive safety measures and encourage employees to practice good habits. The following recommendations can help to prevent heat stress while on the job:
- Gradually increase the amount of time spent in environmental conditions
- Wear light-colored, breathable, and loose-fitting clothing
- Take to the shade or air conditioning whenever possible
- Take frequent breaks
- Drink plenty of water
Make sure to monitor yourself and your coworkers. If you notice that someone is suffering from heat stress, try:
- Moving them to a cool area
- Circulate the air around them
- Provide cold water
- Remove outer clothing, including shoes and socks
- Place cold, wet cloths directly on their skin or soak their clothes in cool water
- Place cold, wet cloths or ice on their head, neck, armpits, or groin
- If they do not improve, take them to a medical professional for evaluation
If you suspect they may be suffering from heat stroke, immediately contact 911 for emergency medical care.
Heat stress caused due to poor work conditions is a serious issue. In general, if you’ve been injured at work, you are entitled to workers’ compensation, regardless of whether your employer was negligent. Benefits include medical bills, a percentage of your lost wages, payment for scarring, and payment for a permanent, rateable injury. If you need assistance filing your workers’ compensation claim, contact Rob Levine & Associates today!