Thousands of workers suffer from heat-related illnesses during the summer months each year. Outdoor workers have a greater risk of succumbing to a heat-related illness. Statistics published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that more than 40 percent of heat-related illnesses occur in the construction industry. Employers with certain health conditions are at greater risk of dying from heat-related illnesses.
How Can Employers Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses?
There are steps employers and workers can take to reduce the risk of developing heat-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that employers should adopt heat safety training programs that teach workers and supervisors to:
- Recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses
- Administer first aid for heat-related illnesses
- Recognize the causes of heat-related illnesses and methods for prevention
- Know what to do when coworkers show symptoms of heat-related illnesses
- Know how to monitor and respond to hot weather warnings
Employers can protect their workers by providing adequate hydration, rest breaks and safety training. The symptoms of a heat-related illness include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, excessive sweating, increased body temperature, confusion and seizures. Some of these symptoms will be visible to other workers.
What Happens If Workers Develop Heat-Related Illnesses?
According to the CDC, workers who are suffering from a heat-related illness should be moved to a cool area (preferably indoors) and given plenty of water. Employers should immediately contact emergency services. The CDC also recommends using cold compression packs and removing any unnecessary clothing until emergency services arrive. Soaking the worker in cold water can also help. Workers should never be left alone if they are suffering from any type of heat-related illness.
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