For workers who must be outside regularly, and even those who venture out only for brief periods during the day, heat-related illnesses are a significant concern in the summer. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration sponsors a Heat Illness Prevention Campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of heat exposure and educate workers and employers about ways to prevent heat-related illnesses.
People have built-in protective mechanisms to keep the body functioning properly. As your body heats up, sweat is your body’s natural method for cooling down. However, in extremely hot and humid conditions, sweat may not be enough.
Moreover, the body’s reaction to heat depends on factors such as:
- Your age
- Your overall health
- Your weight
- The clothing you have on
- The length of exposure
- Whether the temperature is extreme
- The humidity level
An older person who is not in perfect health, for instance, could suffer a heat-related illness much quicker than a younger individual in excellent health.
When your body is no longer able to self-regulate, you will begin to pass through four stages of heat illness:
- Heat rash – Also called “prickly heat”, heat rash appears as small red bumps that are a result of sweat that remains on your skin.
- Heat cramps— Caused by the loss of body salts and fluid when you sweat. You may feel pain or muscles spasms, generally in your abdomen.
- Heat exhaustion – You may feel dizzy, nauseous, weak and thirsty. You may also develop a headache and sweat heavily.
- Heat stroke – Your body stops sweating. You may lose consciousness or become disoriented. Heat stroke can result in a worker fatality if not treated immediately.
A worker suffering from any form of heat-related illness should be closely monitored. By the time a worker reaches the point of heat exhaustion, medical attention may be required. At the point of heat stroke, the worker is in danger of serious complications, even death, from exposure to heat.
OSHA offers some important tips on how to prevent heat-related illnesses.
Both workers and employers should be aware of these tips to prevent a serious heat-related emergency:
- Always allow workers to acclimate slowly to the heat.
- Gradually increase workloads for those working in the heat.
- Workers must drink plenty of water when outdoors.
- Regular breaks in the shade should be scheduled.
- A worker who shows any signs of a heat-related illness should stop working immediately.
- Seek medical treatment immediately if a worker appears to be suffering from serious heat-related symptoms.
Pennsylvania residents who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Although the workers’ compensation system is intended to protect injured workers, it can be difficult to navigate. If you have questions or concerns about your legal rights to compensation, contact the Pennsylvania workers’ comp and personal injury lawyers at Shor & Levin, by calling 855-860-8548 or by using our Worker’s Compensation.