As a San Antonio workplace lawyer, I know that the human body has a system to cool the body when it becomes overheated. As the temperature goes up, your body produces sweat to lower the temperature of the body.
The moisture combined with air flow is usually enough to protect you, but not always. Exertion in the heat for work and high-humidity will affect the body’s ability to cool itself. This can lead to:
- Heat stroke
- Heat cramps
- Heat exhaustion
Who Is At Risk?
Heat illness has always been an issue for farmers and pickers. But, they are not the only workers who labor under the sun. Landscapers, HVAC repair people, construction workers, road repair crews, and anyone who works without air conditioning, are all at risk.
Employers must know the signs of heat illness and they must provide a means for the employee to cool off. Let’s take a look at some of the signs.
Symptoms of Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is a very dangerous condition. It can very quickly lead to death. When a person is experiencing heat stroke, their body temperature rises to 103 to 105 degrees in a very short period of time (less than 15 minutes).
- Throbbing headache
- Dizziness and confusion
- Lack of sweat
- Hot and dry skin
- Nausea and throwing up
- Rapid heartbeat
- Muscle cramps
- Dehydration / dark urine
- Call 911 immediately
- Move the victim to a shady place or an air-conditioned car or building if possible
- Soak their clothes in water and fan them.
- Rapid but shallow breathing
- Apply ice packs to armpits and groin
- If possible, put them in a lake or tub of cold water
Your entire goal is to cool the person as quickly as you can and bring the body temperature down.
The symptoms and treatment of heat exhaustion and heat stroke are the same, except for one thing. A person who is experiencing heat exhaustion is sweaty.
Their body is trying to cool itself. This is the stage just before heat stroke. If addressed immediately, a person may avoid the most dangerous and life-threatening condition of heat stroke.
When a person is exposed to heat for too long, they may experience very painful muscle cramps. This is the body’s way of telling you that you are depleted of hydration and salt.
If a person is on the job, muscle cramps can lead to other accidents such as dropping equipment, falling, or the inability to operate a tool safely.
The employee should be moved to a shady or air-conditioned place immediately and they need water.
Sports drinks are also good for balancing the body in a hurry, but even with the sports drinks, they need a lot of water.
This person needs to rest for a couple of hours before returning to the job.
All work areas should have a shaded place or an air-conditioned area where employees can cool off. This can be as simple as a tarp stretched to block the sun or a work trailer with a small air conditioner.
All work areas should provide water and other drinks to employees. Many construction sites and warehouses provide large water containers.
If possible, keep an ice chest with sports drinks or bottled water. In the event of a heat illness, the icy water could save someone’s life.
Employees need frequent breaks when they are working in the heat. If you can, stagger their breaks and allow (insist upon) an employee to rest for a few minutes every couple of hours.
For more information, speak to a workplace accident attorney today.