The Bollinger Law Firm, PC

Heat-related illnesses can kill workers who are outside

As the temperatures rise in Charlotte, workers who are outside might start to feel the effects of the heat. These workers should be provided with a safe work environment that includes ways to escape the heat.

Heat-related illnesses include some very serious ones that can lead to death if they aren't treated immediately. Some workers might attempt to continue working, so supervisors must be familiar with warning signs so they can take appropriate actions.

There are various illnesses that can come from being out in the heat. These are usually caused by more than one factor, which usually includes excessive sweating and prolonged exposure to heat or the sun.

Here are some of the more common heat-related illnesses:

  • Heat exhaustion: Caused by excessive sweating in a hot environment. Symptoms include nausea, weakness, dizziness, headache, thirst, decreased urination, elevated core body temperature and sweating.
  • Heat stroke: Caused by a rapid rise in body temperature and lack of ability to sweat. This is a medical emergency that can lead to loss of consciousness, confusion, slurred speech, seizures, body temperature that can go above 106 degrees Fahrenheit, profuse sweating, or hot and dry skin.
  • Rhabdomyolysis: Caused by prolonged physical exertion and heat stress. Symptoms include seizures, kidney damage, irregular heartbeats, dark urine, muscle cramps or weakness. Some individuals don't have any symptoms, but this is a medical emergency since the muscles are rupturing, dying and breaking down, which can release harmful components into the bloodstream.
  • Heat syncope: Caused by dehydration and being unacclimated to the conditions. Symptoms include fainting for a short period, becoming lightheaded when standing or rising from a lying or sitting position, and dizziness.
  • Heat rash: Caused by skin irritation due to sweating in humid conditions. Symptoms include a cluster of small blisters or pimples with a red undertone. This isn't usually life-threatening but can be painful.
  • Heat cramps: Caused by sweating that depletes the body's salt level. The primary symptom is painful cramps that occur while the worker is in the heat. This can also be a sign that the person is suffering from heat exhaustion.

Having cool water readily available for the workers to drink and keeping electrolyte replacement solutions on hand can help to prevent some of these dangerous conditions. Additionally, workers should have a shaded area where they can cool down. In some cases, getting into a vehicle with the air conditioner running might be suitable, as long as there is proper ventilation for the exhaust. Workers who do suffer any of these conditions should receive medical care right away so they can be treated before the condition worsens.

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