It is the hottest time of year. For those who don't have the luxury of working in an environment with air conditioning, the health risks of working in hot conditions is clear this time of year.
What are the risks of working in hot conditions?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workers who are exposed to hot conditions are at risk of heat stress. This can lead to:
- Heat stroke: This is the most serious heat-related illness. This occurs when the body is unable to cool down through sweating and other mechanisms. Symptoms often include mental confusion, loss of consciousness, seizures, hypertension and death.
- Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion is less severe than heat stroke and is caused by loss of water through excessive sweating. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst, irritability, extreme sweating, high body temperature and decreased urine.
- Rhabdomyolysis: A condition linked to heat stress that causes the breakdown of muscle tissue, irregular heartbeat, seizures and kidney damage.
- Heat syncope: Dizziness and fainting caused by standing too long or standing from a sitting position during hot conditions.
- Miliaria or heat rash: Skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot conditions. It may appear as red clusters or small pimples.
- Heat cramps: Muscle cramps or pain caused by excess sweating and loss of salt. Heat cramps may also be a sign of heat exhaustion.
Who is most at risk of heat-related illnesses?
Those who are most at risk of heat-related illnesses include:
- Outdoor workers, such as construction workers, agricultural workers, landscapers or groundskeepers. Heat stress can occur when working directly in the sun, during humid conditions or during heat waves.
- Indoor workers, such as restaurant employees, bakery workers, boiler room workers and manufacturers. Heat stress can occur when working around ovens, stoves, boilers and other heat-generating equipment. Hot conditions can also occur in confined spaces.
How can heat stress be prevented on the job?
To help prevent injuries caused by heat stress, OSHA offers these tips:
- Stay hydrated: Drink a cup of water every 15-20 minutes when working in hot conditions. Avoid drinking coffee, alcohol, tea or carbonated drinks.
- Take frequent breaks: Employers should assign workers lighter tasks during hot conditions and encourage them to take frequent breaks. Workers should also take breaks in cool areas, if they are available.
- Wear lighter clothing: Wear lighter clothing, such as T-shirts, shorts or loose-fitting clothing.
- Ventilation: Employers should have proper ventilation in areas that get hot.
- Spot the signs of heat-related illnesses: Workers should take breaks and hydrate at the first signs of a heat-related illness. Don't hesitate to ask your supervisor to allow you to go home for the day if you must do so.
- First-aid: Workers should be trained in first aid in the event of a serious illness.
- Monitor and accommodate: Employers should monitor and accommodate workers with certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart conditions.
Can I collect workers' compensation in New York for a heat-related illness?
If you become ill on the job due to hot conditions or other causes, you may be eligible for compensation to cover your medical expenses and lost wages while you recover. To file a workers' compensation claim, it's important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process, ensure that all paperwork is properly filled out and that all required documentation is prepared for trial.
The legal team at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP Attorneys At Law serves clients in NYC and across the state. Contact us to find out how we can help you.