Summer typically brings a sudden increase in work-related injuries and workers compensation claims in many areas around the U.S. A combination of factors often contributes to this increase, which is noted every year, including weather-related illness and injury.
One of the main contributors to summer injury and illness is extreme heat conditions, which can affect both indoor and outdoor workers.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each year dozens of workers die while thousands of workers become ill because of working in hot or humid conditions. Heat-related illness and injury affects workers in many industries and sectors, including construction, agriculture, and warehousing. Farm workers are most affected by heat related illness and injury. Outdoor workers, including lifeguards and other recreation workers, are also affected by heat-related illness.
Working in extreme heat and humidity, whether indoors or outdoors, can cause a number of serious illnesses, including sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke, which is the most severe heat illness, is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention, according to John Hopkins Medicine.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers employers and workers guidelines and information on how to prevent heat related illness and injury.
It is imperative for employers to ensure that their employees and workers are properly trained and educated on how to protect themselves from heat-related illnesses. It’s also important to educate workers on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of these illnesses in themselves and others. Finally, employees should be trained on what to do in case of a heat-related medical emergency.
OSHA emphasizes the importance of making sure workers are protected from working in the heat from their first day on the job. Statistics on heat-related workplace fatalities revealed that more than 70% of heat-related workplace deaths occurred during the worker’s first week of work.
What are some of the recommended safety precautions that employers should take to prevent heat-related illness and injury?
- Hydration is critical when working in the heat. Employers should provide cool water for their workers throughout the work shift. Hydration stations are one method to provide water to workers. Workers should be monitored for sufficient water intake and hydration, OSHA notes.
- Workers must have access to shaded areas or air-conditioned spaces to rest and take a break from working in the heat. Rest from the heat should be provided at specific intervals, depending on the temperature and conditions.
- Workers that are not accustomed to working in extremely hot temperatures must be allowed to gradually acclimate to working in the heat, whether outdoors or indoors.