Emergencies and conditions related to heat can happen during the entire year, but the risk is significantly higher during the hot summer days. If not diagnosed and treated right away, heat stress caused by being exposed to extreme temperatures for too long can cause extremely dangerous medical conditions. Worker Compensation Lawyers at The Law Offices of Thomas M. DeBenedetto often get numerous questions about how workers suffering from some of the more serious heat-induced conditions can get compensated by their employers. Before you put yourself in danger, educate yourself and find out all the potential risks involved with working under extreme heat conditions.
Who is Most at Risk?
In general, outdoor workers, workers whose occupation bears high risks, and those whose work involves heavy physical labor are the most prone to heat stress. The risk is increased for people working under extreme heat conditions like firefighters, kitchen staff, construction or factory workers, miners, etc. Age is also an important factor, as with workers older than 65 the conditions can be difficult or even fatal. This also goes for overweight workers and those suffering from high blood pressure or heart disease.
What Illnesses Can Come from Heat-Related Stress?
There are several conditions known to develop as a result of heat stress. Some are more dangerous than others, but it is important to visit your doctor immediately if you suspect or notice any symptoms of these heat-induced illnesses:
Heat Stroke: Heat stroke is a potentially fatal medical emergency. The main symptoms of a heat stroke are body temperature over 106 degrees and decreased or no sweating. Apart from that, patients suffering from a heat stroke may experience confusion, chills, consciousness loss and seizures.
Heat Exhaustion: Although heat exhaustion is not as serious as a heat-induced stroke, workers who experience heat exhaustion should be immediately hospitalized. It is important that they are examined in an emergency room or at a private clinic. Symptoms pointing to heat exhaustion include headaches, confusion, nausea, dizziness, extreme thirst, increased sweating and high body temperatures.
Heat Syncope: Being exposed to heat for too long can cause fainting and dizziness. These usually occur because of lack of acclimatization and dehydration. If you experience any of these symptoms, take a break and rehydrate until the symptoms wear off. Just to make sure these symptoms aren’t signs of a worse condition, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Heat Syncope can be extremely dangerous for those employed as construction workers or firemen, where one wrong step could have fatal repercussions.
Heat Cramps: Heat Cramps are muscle aches developing as a result of loss of salt and fluids due to extreme sweating. If you are experiencing heat cramps, drink plenty of clear fluids. In order to prevent them, be sure to stay hydrated during work. Additionally, you could consume drinks with high electrolyte concentration like sports drinks every 20 minutes if you experience these symptoms. Just make sure you don’t exceed the regulated daily intake of these drinks.
How Can You Prevent Heat-Related Illnesses?
The best way to prevent any of these illnesses from developing is to raise the awareness of your employers about the dangers of working under extreme heat conditions. The company should have a person in charge who can recognize the symptoms and oversee the workers during the summer. The work site should be monitored for humidity, high temperatures and sun exposure. Work hours have to be modified during the summer, and frequent breaks should be provided. The person in charge should frequently check on workers prone to heat-related illness, either because of their clothing or their health condition. As a worker, you have to make sure you stay hydrated during the summer and take breaks in sheltered or shaded areas if you feel disoriented or dizzy.
The information you obtain in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.