The dog days of summer are upon us, which means outdoor workers need to take extra precautions to avoid injury or illness. Worker’s comp claims skyrocket in the summer, so take precautions!
While many of us sit in our offices enjoying the air conditioning, others are outside slaving away in the hot sun. Every year thousands of workers file worker’s compensation claims due to overexposure to heat. These illnesses are preventable by taking a few simple steps.
Hot and Humid
Those workers at most risk for heat illness include those who engage in heavy work tasks or wear bulky protective clothing and equipment while working outdoors. Many workers grow accustomed to the heat, but some may be at greater risk for heat related illness if they have not grown such tolerance. For example, those who work in Wisconsin may not be able to handle the heat as well as those working in the Arizona heat and humidity. Those workers not used to the heat should take special precautions including voicing concern if they feel they are becoming over heated. Also, these workers need to be educated of the risk of working outdoors.
Dangerous Body Temperatures
The body’s normal cooling system is through sweat. During the grueling summer months with high humidity, sweat may not be enough. Body temperatures may reach dangerous levels causing sunburn, heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even potentially a heat stroke. Heat strokes can be life threatening. Heat stroke victims may not show obvious symptoms until it could be potentially too late. Workers working in remote areas, far away from medical attention, are at most risk for having a fatal heat stroke. It is important for upper management to talk to newer employees about heat strokes. Newer employees may feel too intimidated to tell superiors when they are not feeling well.
Rest, Shade, Good Communication
It is important for outdoor workers to remember three things: water, rest and shade. Drinking plenty of water, taking several small breaks, and limiting time in the direct sunlight can reduce a worker’s risk of developing heat related illnesses. Employers should include these items in work place training and plans. Developing tolerance to the heat and sun is a gradual process. Overtime employers should gradually increase a worker’s workload. During the first few weeks, employers should allow frequent breaks for their new employees. Employers and employees all need to know the symptoms for a heat stroke or heat related illness. These symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, heavy breathing and minor shaking among others.
Employers should not punish new workers for taking breaks. Onsite managers need to be in place and provide assurance to employees that taking a break is okay. Employers should also provide cooling stations if onsite shade is not available. Workers should also only have to wear heavy protective gear as needed. Workers should not stand around in the gear or wear the gear unless they are using it. Also, employers should allow groups of employees to work in shifts, so when one group gets too hot another group can replace them.
If you are planning to be outdoors for any length of time, it is important to remember to wear sunscreen. Employers should supply adequate sunscreen for their workers. The recommendation is that workers use a high SPF sunscreen that is both waterproof and sweat proof. Sunscreen application should take place 15 to 30 minutes before working or going outdoors. Sunscreen should be reapplied regularly while outdoors.
If you have experienced a heat related illness resulting from working outdoors, it is important that you contact a South Carolina Worker’s Compensation lawyer at the Strom Law Firm. We can assist you in filing your claim, and in the event of denial, we can assist in appealing the denial. We understand heat related illnesses could be debilitating and costly. The Strom Law Firm will fight to get you the money you deserve for your on the job injury. Call us today for a free case evaluation. 803.252.4800.