The summer may bring long days and beautiful sunshine, but can also lead to serious health issues if you don’t properly take care of your body. Construction workers are especially susceptible, what with the long hours they spend outside performing physical labor. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), 2,630 workers suffered from heat illnesses, and another 18 died in 2014 alone.
OSHA law requires employers to provide safe workplaces, and that includes protecting workers from extreme heat.
- Workers need to be provided with sufficient water, shade, and rest.
- New workers or workers returning from injury/time off should have their workloads slowly increased to allow them to acclimate to the temperature and build up their tolerance.
- Train workers on preventing heat illness, and create a plan to handle an emergency.
- Constantly monitor workers for warning signs.
Heatstroke is the most serious type of heat illness and can occur when the body’s core temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If not treated immediately, heatstroke can lead to serious health complications like brain damage, heart damage, kidney damage, and muscle damage. The complications only worsen the longer it takes to receive treatment, and can be fatal if left unchecked. Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Change in behavior/mental state: Heatstroke can cause agitation, confusion, coma, delirium, irritability, and slurred speech.
- Change in sweating: Depending on what causes the heatstroke, your skin could either feel moist, or hot and dry to the touch.
- Flushed skin: As your core temperature rises, your skin could begin to turn red.
- Headache: Headaches are a common early symptom that can also signal the beginning stages of dehydration.
- Increased body temperature: The number one sign of heatstroke is a body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Increased heart rate: As your body temperature increases, your heart may attempt to cool you down by pumping more blood throughout your body.
- Nausea/vomiting: Feeling sick or, in more serious cases vomiting, are both signs of heatstroke.
- Rapid breathing: As you come closer to suffering heatstroke, your breathing can become increasingly rapid and shallow.
Along with heatstroke, working long hours in hot weather can lead to dehydration. If recognized early, getting out of the sun and drinking fluids may be enough to handle mild to moderate cases of dehydration. However, if it progresses past that level, you may require immediate medical care to avoid health complications like seizures, kidney failure, cerebral edema, or death. Symptoms of severe dehydration include:
- Low blood pressure
- Increased breathing and heartbeat
- Incredibly dry skin and mouth
- Extreme thirst
- Confusion, delirium, and increased irritability
- Sunken eyes
- Dry and shriveled skin with decreased elasticity – when pinched, it doesn’t immediately bounce back into its original position.
Under OSHA law, workplaces are required to provide their workers with a safe environment, and that includes ensuring they have a way to take care of themselves in the sweltering summer season. If you or a loved one suffered a heat injury or heat illness because they weren’t protected by their employer, contact The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. today. Our work injury lawyers are dedicated to helping our clients secure the compensation they need, as well as any damages or lost wages resulting from the injury. Visit our website for a free case evaluation, or call us at (212) 577-9325 to speak with one of our work injury attorneys.