The heat index, which takes into account the air temperature and humidity, can help workers and their employers determine the risk for heat stress. Exposure to extreme temperatures increases the risk of heat-related illnesses and injuries, but humidity can impede the body’s ability to cool itself through sweat, making the problem worse. Employers have a responsibility to train their workers to understand the dangers of heat stress and how they can be prevented. When employers fail in their duties, a workers comp lawyer can assist workers in obtaining compensation for their injuries.
Dangers of Heat Stress
Heat stress can cause life-threatening illnesses like rashes, cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Extreme heat increases the risk of injury because workers can become dizzy and lose their balance or have sweaty palms and lose their grip on tools and equipment. Impaired vision could also occur when wearing safety glasses that fog up from the heat.
Workers who are most at risk are those working in occupations where they work outside or in hot environments, such as construction workers, firefighters, bakery workers, kitchen workers, and factory workers. The risk increases if workers are overweight, 65 years of age or older, or have high blood pressure or heart disease.
Steps for Reducing Workplace Heat Stress
The time to train workers on how to handle heat stress is before these conditions occur. Safety programs should include training to:
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, such as dizziness, headache, confusion, heavy sweating, high body temperature, or fainting
- Know what actions should be taken if an employee is feeling or observes others affected by heat stress and what first aid should be provided
- Understand the causes of heat-related illnesses and how they minimize the risk, including drinking more water and taking breaks in cooler areas
- Know how to properly use and care for heat-protective clothing and equipment
- Be aware of the added heat load caused by personal protective equipment, clothing, and exertion
- Understand how nonoccupational factors, including health issues and drug or alcohol, impact heat stress tolerance
Workers should also be trained on how to monitor weather forecasts and respond when warnings are given for hot weather.