Employers, workers warned to beware of heat-related health problems
Water, rest, and shade are the three keys to protecting workers from heat-related problems, according to a campaign. By taking precautions, OSHA says employers can prevent work-related heat illnesses that occur each year.
An outreach initiative aims to educate employers and their workers about the hazards of working outside in hot weather and preventive actions. It also includes information on the types of heat-related illnesses and what to do for a worker who experiences any of them.
Heat stroke, the most serious heat-related health problem, requires medical attention. It has killed an average of 30 workers each year since 2003. It occurs when the body's temperature regulating system fails. Symptoms may include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures.
Heat exhaustion is also serious. Symptoms include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, confusion, thirst, and heavy sweating. If not quickly addressed, it can become heat stroke.
Heat cramps are muscle pains caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Heat rash is the most common problem and is caused by sweating and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. Both can turn into heat exhaustion if proper steps are not followed.
Among those especially at risk are agriculture workers, construction workers, utility workers, baggage handlers, roofers, landscapers, and anyone who works outside.
Employers are advised to follow these precautions:
- Drink plenty of water -- but not too much. Advise workers to drink about six ounces every 15 minutes. However, they should not drink more than 12 quarts of fluid in 24 hours, as drinking extreme amounts of water may be harmful.
- Allow workers to get used to hot environments by gradually increasing exposure over a five-day period. Start with half of the normal workload and build up by the fifth day.
- Reduce the physical demands of the job as much as possible by using mechanical devices or assigning extra workers.
- Schedule jobs with high heat exposure at cooler times of the day.
- Monitor workers wearing personal protective equipment, as they can put workers at increased risk of heat stress. They should be periodically checked for signs and symptoms of overexposure.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
June 7, 2012
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