As we head into the hottest days of summer, we wrap up our series of blogs on common workplace injuries with the two types of heat illness: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Workers with outside jobs or heat-related job duties are often at high risk of exposure to heat illness in North Carolina job sites.
Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers want to remind employees that there is a fine line between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so take the necessary precautions to avoid serious injury or illness while you are at work.
WFMY News reports that a Burlington firefighter was recently treated for heat exhaustion after responding to a call regarding a machine fire at a plant at Glen Raven Mills. This is just one example of how heat-related jobs can not only be dangerous, but can cause serious illness. Thousands of workers throughout the U.S are treated at hospitals for heat exhaustion or heat stroke each year.
North Carolina Division of Public Health has already reported about 319 heat-related illness emergency room visits between May 1 June 4 this year. The majority of cases have involved young (ages 24-44) and middle-aged (45-64) adults. The three common reasons leading to the heat illness is playing or working outdoors and job-related outdoor activities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the workers that are most in danger of heat-related illness are farmers, factory workers, constructions workers, postal workers, bakers, miners, firefighters and boiler room workers. Employees most at risk are those older than 65, overweight, workers with high blood pressure, or workers on certain prescribed medications.
The following are symptoms of heat exhaustion: dizziness, cramps, headache, nausea, sweaty skin or a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke can often be detected by signs of confusion, convulsions, fainting, high temperature or red, hot and dry skin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers the following tips to prevent a heat-related illness at work:
-Drink plenty of water on a timely schedule, even if you aren’t thirsty. It is recommended to drink every 15 minutes.
-Refrain from drinking beverages like coffee, energy drinks, soda or alcohol in extreme hot temperatures.
-Keep an eye on other employees around you. If you see strange behavior or signs of heat exhaustion call for help immediately and alert a supervisor.
-Have your work site location memorized in case you need to call for help. A 911 dispatch will need an address to send a rescue team to your location.
-Always wear a hat for protection from the sun and light-weight and fair-colored cotton clothing. Dark clothes attract the heat and shouldn’t be worn.
-Ask your employer to provide a tent or covering for shade. Take periodic breaks in the shade.
-Never climb under machinery or a vehicle to get out of the sun. You run the risk of the vehicle moving and crushing you.