Summer will soon be here, and in Southern California that means hot temperatures and lots of sun are on their way. But, while summer weather is welcomed by most, it can bring serious dangers for construction workers, athletes, agricultural workers, landscapers and anyone else who works outside.
To that end, Cal/OSHA has launched a campaign to educate workers and employers about the risks of heat illness and ways to stay safe while working outside in hot weather.
WHAT IS HEAT ILLNESS?
Heat illnesses occur when the body cannot cool itself sufficiently through sweating, causing the core body temperature to become dangerously high. Some of the most common types of heat illness include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
Some heat illnesses, like heat rash and heat cramps, are relatively minor and can be remedied with rest and hydration. However, trying to work through heat rash or heat cramps can be risky and can lead to further complications including skin infections and muscle injuries.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke, on the other hand, are serious conditions that should be addressed by a medical professional. Heat exhaustion is marked by symptoms including heavy sweating, skin that is cool to the touch, fatigue, weak pulse, nausea and headache. If heat exhaustion is not addressed immediately – by allowing the sufferer to move to a cool area where he or she can rest and rehydrate – it can progress into heatstroke. Heatstroke can cause significant damage to the muscles, heart and brain and can even be fatal.
MAKING WORKPLACES SAFER FOR OUTDOOR WORKERS
As with most workplace hazards, heat illnesses can be best prevented with a proactive attitude toward safety. Hydration, regular rest breaks and appropriate clothing are the best protectors against heat illnesses.
Cal/OSHA recommends that employers provide their workers with enough fresh water so that workers can consume at least one quart per hour. Workers should be encouraged to drink even if they are not thirsty. In addition, employers should provide cool, shady areas where workers can take regular rest breaks. Further, workers should be encouraged to dress in light-colored breathable fabrics whenever possible.
HELP FOR VICTIMS OF HEAT ILLNESS
If you or a loved one is affected by a heat illness this summer, it is important to take advantage of the protections offered by California’s workers’ compensation law. Workers’ compensation will pay for medical care needed as a result of a work-related injury or illnesses. It will also provide wage-replacement benefits to workers whose injuries or illnesses are severe enough that they must take time off work to recover.
Navigating California’s workers’ compensation system alone can be difficult, especially if you employer is uncooperative or is challenging your injury claim. In these instances, it is in your best interest to enlist the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can fight for the benefits you deserve.