High temperatures take a toll on the body, especially those working outside. Many workers fall ill yearly because of excessive heat and humid conditions; some have even died from extreme temperatures.
Working in the heat is not only uncomfortable but is also dangerous to your health. Heat-related illnesses happen when a hot environment and the body releases heat more slowly. When the body cannot release heat through sweat evaporation, it begins to overheat and then is unable to control its temperature.
Those who work in the heat not only have an increased chance of suffering a heat-related illness or injury, but it also hinders their ability to work at a productive pace. Extreme temperatures cause dizziness, decreased focus, and even sweaty hands, which raises the chances of an accident. Some studies show that worker productivity reduces by more than one percent every two degrees above 77 degrees Fahrenheit. When at hotter temperatures, such as 99 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, work productivity decreases by over 22 percent.
Although employers should enforce safety guidelines to protect their workers from illnesses, workers can also follow safety tips to protect themselves:
- Hydration: Ensure you always have water on hand and stay hydrated as much as possible. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends drinking about a liter of water or a cup every 15 minutes. Water should be potable and less than 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also okay, especially when sweating profusely. You can also cool your body temperature by spraying water on your body.
- Rest: Take frequent breaks, primarily if you work in direct sunlight or near hot machinery in rooms with poor airflow. Allow the body to eliminate excess heat by moving to the shade or into an air-conditioned room. Your employer should allow adequate break times for individuals exposed to hotter temperatures.
- Acclimatize: Acclimatization is when the body builds a tolerance to the heat. This process takes time, whereas newer workers who are not acclimatized should start with about 20 percent of exposure on their first day and increase that in 20 percent intervals over the next several days. Dramatic temperature changes should have workers adjust their time outside by half and then slowly increase that workload over the next three days. Some workers may need longer than the recommended seven to 14 days to acclimatize, and taking breaks while acclimatizing will not affect it.
- Be prepared: If your job allows, wear lightweight clothing, light-color clothing, and a hat that can protect you from the sun. Most outdoor jobs require extra safety equipment, so only wear light clothing if your job site allows it. Be careful of what you eat and drink before working in hot weather. Eat smaller meals and avoid drugs and alcohol, as well as caffeine. Knowing the weather beforehand helps you better prepare for extreme heat, so check the forecast and heat index when possible.
How Can Employers Help Workers?
There are numerous ways an employer can reduce workplace injuries and Workers’ Compensation claims:
- Train workers to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses. Before any work outdoors or in hot conditions begins, it is best to have your workers properly trained in heat safety. These programs should train employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to minimize the risks. Workers also need to be trained to respond should they begin feeling the effects of extreme heat and report it to any supervisor.
- Train workers on how to use the equipment. Workers should be trained on how to use heat-protective clothing. Emergency services should be contacted if workers are showing signs of heat-related illnesses.
- Heat stress prevention. Employers need to create a safe environment for their workers that is free of hazards. Employees working in the heat should have their time limited and an increase in recovery time. Employers can control heat stress by reducing the job’s demands and increasing the number of workers per task to reduce strain and stress. Implementing a buddy system can minimize heat-related injuries as well. This is where workers can monitor each other for any signs and symptoms of heat stress, as well as monitor themselves. Employers can implement proper heat acclimatization plans and provide adequate water for their employees.
The OSHA recommends safety measures for extreme heat conditions to begin at 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and precautions should increase as the temperatures get hotter. The OSHA also recommends having plans in place before the temperatures become too hot, such as hydration and break schedules and effective cooling solutions that are also cost-effective. Fans are an excellent option to keep the air moving. Perhaps one of the best cooling solutions is an evaporative cooler, which can lower temperatures by almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit.
Piscataway Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Help Workers Injured by High Heat Conditions
You may be entitled to compensation if you suffer from a work-related injury or illness caused by extreme temperatures. Contact one of our Piscataway Workers’ Compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr immediately for help with your claim. Call us at 732-249-4600 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we proudly serve the communities of New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.