Tips for Avoiding Heat Sickness While at Work

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Workers’ Compensation on Friday, July 22, 2011

The heat wave that has enveloped much of the United States the past week has proven dangerous to those who cannot escape the triple-digit temperatures and sweltering humidity. The National Weather Service estimated that 141 million people were subject to heat advisories or warnings in a part of the country spanning 1 million square miles. In the St. Louis area, authorities are blaming the weather for seven deaths since July 10.

Those who were stricken tended to be older or vulnerable people, but those whose jobs require them to work outdoors are also vulnerable to becoming injured by exposure to excessive heat and humidity. An early warning sign of sickness is the onset of heat cramps, or spasmodic pains in the stomach or legs that occur when fluids and electrolytes lost to sweat are not replaced.

From there, outdoor workers can suffer heat exhaustion, especially if they are working hard and sweating profusely under the oppressive sun. Symptoms include moist skin that is either pale or flushed, headache, dizziness, nausea and exhaustion.

If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition triggered when a person is no longer able to sweat. Symptoms of heat stroke include fever, red skin, vomiting and fainting.

While working in such potentially dangerous conditions is not ideal, for many workers in construction and other industries, there may not be a choice. Here are some tips to keep yourself as safe as possible this summer:

• Take frequent breaks to drink small amounts of water. The Department of Labor suggests water breaks every 15 minutes.
• Take periodic rest breaks in an air-conditioned or shady area.
• Heavier, more intense jobs should be done in the morning, when temps are lower.

Source:, “Statement by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis on continued heat waves sweeping the country,” July 20, 2011

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