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Preventing Heat-Related Illnesses on the Job

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In Pennsylvania, it is your employer’s duty to provide a hazard-free work zone. And in the summer time, one of the biggest concerns for those working outdoors is heat related illness. Below is some information about heat related illnesses as well as some measures you, your coworkers, and your employer can take to ensure a safe work environment for those hot summer days. 
 
Heat-related Illnesses
The four most common types of heat-related illnesses are heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash. 
 
Heat stroke is the most serious of these issues. Heat strokes occur when the body can no longer control its core temperature. Those that are suffering from heat stroke lose their ability to sweat and can no longer rid their body of extra heat. Symptoms include seizures, loss of consciousness, and confusion. Heat strokes are a VERY SERIOUS matter and can lead to death. If any of your coworkers experiences ANY of these symptoms, you MUST call 911 immediately. While waiting for medical professionals to arrive, you should place the worker in a cool area, loosen their clothing, fan them and provide cold packs, splash them with water, and get them something to drink.  
 
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body loses too much salt and water from excessive sweating. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, headache, irritability, thirst, weakness, and excessive perspiration. If you see somebody suffering from heat exhaustion, move them to a cooler area, and get them some water and ice packs. Make sure that this person gets the rest of the day off and if the symptoms do not improve within 60 minutes, take them to the emergency room. 
 
Heat cramps are caused by low salt and fluid levels in the body. The main symptom is painful muscle cramps and can occur both on the job and at home. When experiencing heat cramps, the worker should rest in a cool area, drink water, and wait a few hours before returning to any heavy work. If the cramps do not go away, the worker should see a doctor. 
 
Heat rash is a skin irritation that takes place when sweat does not evaporate from the skin. Symptoms include red bumps on the skin. If somebody experiences heat rash, they should make an effort to keep the affected area dry. 
 
Safety Measures for Working in the Heat
It is your employer’s duty to provide you and your coworkers with a safe work environment. Below are a few measures you, your coworkers, and your employer should take to ensure that no heat-related illnesses occur. 
 
Stay Hydrated – Employers should allow their employees to consume ample amounts of water. This is especially true in hot conditions. The Center for Disease Control says that those working in the heat should drink one cup of water every 15-20 minutes. Employers should provide their workers with drinks of water, or at least allow them to bring their own and give them regular drink breaks. 
 
Provide Training – All workers should be trained on how to prevent, recognize, and react to heat-related illnesses. There should be an official company procedure for dealing with heat emergencies. 
 
Adjust The Workload – Workers should not be pushed in extreme heat conditions. On hot days, employers should advise their employees to move slower, take more breaks, and perform light-weight tasks. Strenuous jobs should be saved for other days.  
 
Wear Appropriate Clothing – Clothing should be lightweight and breathable. If a job requires items like heavy gloves, goggles, and heavy shirts and/or pants, the task should be saved for a cooler day. 
 
Workers in Pennsylvania who have suffered from heat-related illnesses may be entitled to workers compensation and should contact a workers compensation attorney immediately. If you are in the Harrisburg, Scranton, or Allentown area, call PaWorkersCompHelpNow at 877-COMPHELP. 
 
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