Heat stress is a very real concern for workers across many industries as the summer months roll around. Individuals like landscapers or construction workers who are exposed to extreme summertime temperatures, or those who work in hot environments year-round like factory workers and miners, need heat safety procedures in place to keep cool on the job. Heat stress that is not properly treated can lead to workplace illness and injuries, some of which can be fatal.
When the temperature is close to or higher than a person's body temperature, the body has a tougher time cooling down through sweating. When the humidity in the air is too high to allow for evaporation, or if the fluids lost by sweating are not replaced, the body will store excess heat, leading to symptoms of heat stress.
Heat stress or prolonged exposure to high temperatures can result in physical complications like heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to control its temperature. It is the most serious consequence of heat stress and can be debilitating or even fatal.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a five-point approach for protecting workers from heat stress.
- Acclimatize: Workers should increase exposure to extreme heat by approximately 20 percent each day over a week or two. The human body will physically adapt to high temperatures over time, though additional safety precautions are always necessary.
- Take a break: To prevent symptoms of heat stress, workers need to rest in the shade or air-conditioned areas frequently throughout the workday.
- Dress appropriately: When possible, employees should be encouraged to wear light, breathable clothing that will not retain heat. Workers should be mindful when wearing heavy safety equipment as it can increase the risk of heat stress.
- Partner up: Workers should utilize the buddy system to routinely check in with a co-worker for signs of heat stress. Partners can remind each other to rest and hydrate often.
- Hydrate often: Drinking small amounts of cool water regularly throughout the day can help prevent heat stress. Waiting until one is thirsty is not as effective. In hot temperatures, workers should drink one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes.
In addition to these recommendations, employers should be aware of any pre-existing medical conditions or medications that might make employees more vulnerable to high temperatures. Cooling stations and equipment like cooling headbands should be readily available throughout the workplace. Training is the single most important factor in protecting workers. Supervisors and employees should be instructed to recognize and address the signs of heat stress quickly and efficiently.
Vineland Workers' Compensation Lawyers at Rone & Kowalski, LLC Represent Victims of Heat Stress
If you suffer a heat-related illness at work, the skilled Vineland Workers' Compensation lawyers at Rone & Kowalksi, LLC can assist you with your New Jersey Workers' Compensation case. Call our Milmay offices at 609-476-4044 x 203 to schedule a consultation or you can also contact us online. We help injured workers in Vineland, Bridgeton, Millville, Buena Vista, Maurice River Township, Upper Deerfield Township, Greenwich Township, Stow Creek Township, and Cumberland County.