Whether you work in an industrial setting, in an agricultural environment or on a road crew patching potholes, late summer weather can be a job risk. Many people just try to power through on days where high heat and humidity make their jobs more stressful and unpleasant than usual.
People who work demanding blue-collar jobs often feel like heat exhaustion or heat stress are just part of the job. While dedication to your employment is admirable, ignoring heat stress or heat exhaustion could be a mistake that leads to lost time on the job or, in extreme cases, permanent injury.
Businesses should take steps to protect workers from heat on the job
Heat exhaustion on the job can occur in any environment. Those who work outdoors may suffer on days when banks of humidity roll in or when the sun is bright and merciless. Those who work in indoor environments like factories or even kitchens with poor ventilation could work in conditions that are far too hot or humid for safety purposes.
As people’s body temperature starts to increase, they may develop unpleasant symptoms. They may begin to notice dizziness or wet skin because of their body sweating to cool them down. They may notice increasing weakness or a strong sense of thirst. Other people experience nausea or vomiting, as well as weakness, dizziness and fainting when experiencing heat exhaustion.
If they do not cool off, those symptoms may progress to heat stroke. The worker may start to feel confused, and if they don’t act quickly, they could pass out or even suffer seizures brought on by their high body temperatures. When someone stops sweating in high temperatures while still exerting themselves, they may be getting dangerously close to heat stroke.
In extreme cases, the circumstances can lead to an otherwise healthy person having such a strong reaction to high temperatures and humidity that they die.
How should workers handle heat exhaustion or heat stroke?
Ideally, everyone working in hot and humid environments would monitor themselves in their co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. That way, they can intervene quickly and report the issue to their employer. Getting medical support right away could stop the progression of heat exhaustion.
Workers’ compensation benefits can cover medical costs for workers injured by heat and humidity and can replace lost wages if a worker needs time off to recover. Understanding that heat stroke and heat exhaustion can qualify someone for workers’ compensation benefits is an important step for a worker with a heat-related injury.