Drink water and rest to avoid heat-related illnesses

Summer is here and as North Carolina residents rejoice in the shining sun and warmer temperatures, they may not notice the construction workers or landscaping workers hard at work in the blistering sun; they may not even know about the risk heat poses to these employees working in labor-intensive jobs.

According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the workers in the agriculture, transportation, landscaping and construction fields face the highest risk of heat illness. Many employers may not take the risk posed by heat exposure seriously, but the reality of the matter is that workers performing outdoor activities are exposed to heat illnesses that can be fatal. Thousands of employees become sick every year from heat exposure and it has proven to be fatal in many cases. OSHA reports that in 2012 alone, there were 4,120 workplace illnesses related to the heat across the country and 31 workplace deaths.

Though sweating normally cools down a heated body, labor-intensive activities in extreme weather can raise body temperatures to levels that cannot be cooled down by simply sweating. The first signs of heat illness can include heat rash and cramps. If not treated in time, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are quick to follow. Those who are used to working in the heat may feel these symptoms later than others. Temporary or new workers, who are not used to working in the heat, are at the most risk for heat illnesses. Acclimatization is actually one of the main ways to prevent it.

OSHA recommends that employers follow basic safety rules in the form of rest, water and shade and provide the necessary safeguards from outdoor heat.

North Carolina workers working in unsafe conditions may get hurt on the job. If this happens, they have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover the cost of their medical treatment and also for the wages they lost due to their injury.

Source: EHS Today, ” OSHA reminds employers to protect workers from heat hazards,” Josh Cable, May 28, 2014

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