What are the risks of working in extremely hot conditions?
Summer is in full swing. If you're a resident of Mississippi, you know how hot it gets here during this time of year. Some employees have the luxury of working in cooler, air conditioned environments, but not all do.
Outdoor workers, such as those who work in construction, agriculture, and landscaping, often endure long hours in the sun and sometimes through heat waves. Some indoor workers may be exposed to extreme heat when working around ovens, stoves, boilers or in confined spaces.
Heat-related injuries and illnesses to watch out for
Heat-related injuries are very common among Mississippi workers. Some can result in hospitalization and even death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat-related illnesses and injuries include:
- Heat stroke: This illness happens when the body can't naturally regulate temperature through sweating. Heat stroke is the most severe of all heat-related illnesses and can lead to seizures and death. Signs of heat stroke include mental confusion, loss of consciousness and increased blood pressure.
- Heat exhaustion: This illness occurs for the same reasons as heat stroke, yet it is generally not as severe. Heat exhaustion happens when workers lose excess water through sweating. Signs of heat exhaustion may include headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, increased thirst, mood changes, increased body temperature, excessive sweating and decreased urine output.
- Rhabdomyolysis: This condition occurs when muscle tissue breaks down due to heat stress. Signs of rhabdomyolysis include irregular heartbeat, seizures and kidney damage.
- Heat syncope: Workers who stand too long or stand from sitting positions during extremely hot conditions may experience sudden dizziness and fainting. This can lead to injuries relating to falls, such as head injuries, broken bones, bruises, contusions and lacerations.
- Miliaria or heat rash: Working in extreme heat could result in heat rash caused by sweating. Heat rash may appear as red clusters or small pimples.
- Heat-related cramps: Workers may lose salt through excessive sweating. This could lead to muscle cramps and may also be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
How can heat-related illnesses and injuries be prevented?
When working in hot conditions, heat-related illnesses and injuries can be prevented by following these guidelines offered by OSHA:
- Workers should drink a cup of water every 15-20 minutes to stay hydrated.
- Employers should assign lighter tasks during extreme heat and encourage frequent breaks.
- Workers should wear lighter or loose-fitting clothes.
- Workplaces should be properly ventilated.
- Workers should be trained to spot signs of heat-related illnesses and injuries and either take breaks or provide first aid.
- Workers with certain health conditions should be closely monitored when working in hot conditions.
Can I obtain workers' compensation for a heat-related illness or injury?
If you sustained an illness or injury on the job while working in hot conditions, you may be eligible for workers' compensation. To learn more about the benefits you may be entitled to and how to get started on your claim, contact the workers' compensation attorneys at Tabor Law Firm, P.A.
We serve clients in Ridgeland, Jackson, and across the state of Mississippi. Our legal consultations are free and confidential.