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In observance of National Heat Awareness Day (May 27) it is important to be aware of rising temperatures on the job site.

Outdoor workers can be at a higher risk to the effects of excessive heat.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 43 work-related deaths due to heat exposure in 2018. From 2011-2018, 144 workers (41.9%) died from environmental heat exposure while they were engaged in construction, repair, or cleaning, and 54 workers (15.7%) died while conducting materials handling operations.

It is important to have frequent water breaks and rest in a cool, shaded area. Gradually increase workload and allow more frequent breaks for new workers or workers who have been away for a week or more. Know symptoms, prevention and emergency response to prevent heat-related illness or death.

Identifying Heat-Related Illnesses

During extremely hot and humid weather, your body’s ability to cool itself is challenged. When the body heats too rapidly to cool itself properly, or when too much fluid or salt is lost through dehydration or sweating, body temperature rises and you or someone you care about may experience a heat-related illness.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps may be the first sign of heat-related illness and may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.

Symptoms: Painful muscle cramps and spasms usually in legs and abdomen and heavy sweating.

First aid: Apply firm pressure on cramping muscles or gently massage to relieve spasm. Give sips of water unless the person complains of nausea, then stop giving water. Seek immediate medical attention if cramps last longer than one hour.

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms: heavy sweating, weakness or tiredness, cool, pale, clammy skin; fast, weak pulse, muscle cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, headache, fainting.

First aid: Move person to cooler environment, preferable a well air-conditioned room. Loosen clothing. Apply cool, wet cloths or have person sit in a cool bath. Offer sips of water. If person vomits more than one, seek immediate medical attention.

Heat Stroke

Symptoms: Throbbing headache, confusion, nausea, dizziness, body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, hot, red dry or damp skin, rapid and strong pulse, fainting and loss of consciousness.

First Aid: Call 911 or get the victim to a hospital immediately. Heat stroke is a severe medical emergency. Delay can be fatal. Move the victim to a cooler, preferably air-conditioned environment. Reduce body temperature with cool cloths or bath. Use fan if heat index temperatures are below the high 90s. A fan can make you hotter at high temperatures. Do NOT give fluids.

Helpful Tips

Stay Cool

  • Find an air-conditioned shelter
  • Avoid direct sunlight
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing
  • Take cool showers or baths
  • Do not rely on a fan as your primary cooling device

Stay Hydrated

  • Drink more water than usual
  • Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink more fluids
  • Avoid alcohol or liquids containing high amounts of sugar
  • Remind others to drink enough water.

National Heat Awareness Day is an effort by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Weather Service to alert workers, employers and the public at large about the preventable health dangers related to heat, in order to reduce the overall rate of illnesses and deaths caused by it.

For more resources about how to keep your employees safe on the job site, contact INSURICA today.

Mayoclinic.org, weather.gov, bls.gov and noheatstroke.org contributed to this report. This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. 

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