After a long, cold winter in Chicago, many are looking forward to spending extra time outdoors and soaking in some sun. For those who predominantly work outside, however, this time of year means more risks. Each year, thousands of workers suffer heat-related illnesses and conditions during the summer months. The good news is that nearly all of these instances are preventable.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that extra precautions be taken at work when temperatures are above 85°F. Below, we discuss how employers and workers can stay safe from these common summer safety hazards.
Sunburns are a type of skin burn that occur when the body is exposed to extremely high levels of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. While many sunburns are mild and heal within a few weeks, others can lead to painful blistering, swelling, red skin, and dehydration. Additionally, repeated sunburns can significantly increase one’s risk of developing skin cancer.
When working outdoors, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen in the morning first, then reapply every two hours. To add extra protection to your face, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Employers should provide shaded areas for workers that they can use to get relief from direct sunlight during the day.
Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is put under stress from overheating. This condition often happens to workers who are not acclimated to the heat; other factors can increase one’s risk of heat exhaustion, such as body weight, physical fitness, or certain medications. Signs to look out for include moist skin, faintness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and headaches.
Workers should choose to wear loose, light-colored, and breathable clothing. Be aware that wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) can increase the risk of heat exhaustion, so ensure that you are taking extra breaks when utilizing this safety equipment. Additionally, when possible, employers should reschedule jobs to cooler times of the day.
The body relies on its water content to function properly. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in, causing an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. Sunburns can also cause a person to become dehydrated more easily. Staying properly hydrated is essential for protecting yourself from this type of heat-related illness.
Drink water or fluids often enough to never become thirsty, at least one cup every 30 minutes. You should drink more if you are doing heavy physical activity or perspiring heavily. Additionally, know the signs of dehydration, which include dry mouth, headaches, fatigue, constipation, dizziness, dark urine, or urinating less frequently than normal.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that auto accidents are one of the most common causes of worker fatalities in the U.S. While car accidents can occur at any point in time, they often occur more frequently during the summer months due to there being more traffic, road congestion, construction projects, and drunk drivers.
If you operate a motor vehicle as part of your job, please make sure to drive defensively during this time of year. Additionally, certain workers are at risk of being struck and killed by vehicles while on the job, such as construction workers or electricians. These workers should wear bright colors to increase their visibility to oncoming traffic.
Also known as hyperthermia, heat stroke is a condition that develops when an individual’s body overheats to 104 degrees, causing their internal organs to swell. Essentially, this happens when the body is unable to properly regulate its internal temperature through the perspiration process due to excessive heat exposure. Signs to look out for include dizziness, confusion, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fast breathing, cramps, racing heart rate, or seizures.
If someone is exhibiting signs of heat stroke, they should be taken into a cool area right away, given fluids, and have any excess clothing removed. If they are unable to take in fluids or are unresponsive, call 9-1-1 immediately or transport the individual to the nearest emergency room. Without prompt and adequate treatment, heat stroke can lead to permanent damage or be fatal.
Injured at Work This Summer?
If you or a family member is injured at work this summer, our tenacious legal team is here to fight for you and maximum benefits on your behalf. For more than 25 years, the Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Leonard Law Group have been assisting injured workers across the state of Illinois. You can trust that your case is in good hands at our firm.
Contact our team at (312) 487-2513 to speak with us today. We offer free case evaluations and clients pay no upfront fees to retain our services.