While Southern California might be known for having a temperate climate, workers could still be subjected to extreme temperatures. Workers outside can face relentless sunlight and 100-degree temperatures as the summer months progress. Additionally, conditions inside can become stifling due to lack of air circulation and heavy physical labor. No matter the scope of your task, it is imperative that you take steps to protect yourself from heat stress while on the job.
Even though heat stroke might be the most serious type of heat illness, OSHA cautions workers about numerous other conditions. Extreme heat and lack of proper hydration can lead to heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash. Common risk factors for these conditions can include:
- Environmental factors such as high temperatures, high humidity, direct sun exposure and no breeze
- Heavy physical labor
- Failing to hydrate
- Failing to wear “breathable” clothing
Additionally, employees who are not accustomed to working in high heat might immediately suffer extreme negative consequences as they are not used to the conditions and will likely overdress or fail to take an appropriate number of breaks.
Are there common symptoms?
Workers can suffer various severities of heat illness based on numerous factors. Fortunately, the conditions tend to share common symptoms so it might be possible to recognize danger and react to it. Common symptoms can include:
- Physical symptoms including headache, dizziness, fainting, muscle weakness, nausea and thirst.
- Cognitive symptoms including irritability, confusion, memory loss and loss of ability to think clearly.
When facing heat stroke specifically, workers might suffer fainting spells, seizures and ultimately stop sweating which indicates the body’s loss of the ability to regulate its own temperature.
Supervisors must take steps to protect their workers from serious heat illness during the summer. These methods of prevention can include:
- Modification of work schedules so work is not performed during the hottest portion of the day
- Scheduling frequent rest periods for water breaks in climate-controlled conditions
- Distribute appropriate work gear that provides cooling layers
- Designate a trained individual who can monitor conditions and provide warnings to workers who are at risk
If you were injured while performing a work task or suffered a heat illness while on the job, it is wise to discuss your unique situation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. You might be eligible to recover compensation benefits.