Heat Stroke and Heat Related Injuries Caused By Working Outdoors

Water, rest, shade; three simple words that hold a lot of meaning if you are out working in the hot sun all day. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (otherwise known as OSHA) as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) are offering easy to follow guidelines in order to prevent heat related illness in workers across the country.

That water, rest, shade motto is the first step toward enlightening workers on what they need to do to make sure they are working in safe conditions. OSHA recommends that all workers who are outside in warm conditions drink water every 15 minutes, even if they don’t feel as though they are thirsty at the time. They also suggest that workers rest in the shade, or an air-conditioned area if available, to cool down periodically throughout the day. Wearing a hat and light colored clothing can also contribute to a person’s ability to cool down efficiently during the workday. OSHA believes that employers should train all of their workers on the signs and symptoms of heat illness so that they are effectively able to recognize it within themselves and others. Knowing the symptoms and keeping an eye on your fellow workers could lead to the prevention of serious issues arising.

Workers are not the only ones responsible for preventing heat related illness from striking in the workplace. Employers are instructed to make cooling down an easily accessible option for all of the employees under their care. Providing water stations, shaded areas, and frequent breaks are all necessities that should be provided to those who work outside in the summer heat. OSHA suggests that those who are new to working outside, or for those who usually work outside but have not done so for a period of a week or longer, to have adjusted work schedules to ensure that these individuals are becoming acclimatized to their workload for the day. Acclimatization is heavily stressed by representatives for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration purely because heat tolerance is built up over time. Gradually easing new or returning workers back into their schedule for the day is the best and safest way to be sure that these individuals are not leaving themselves at a higher risk for heat illness.

Statistics show that if you work in the sun for the majority of the day, your body heat index can increase by as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit.  Any and all workers exposed to heat, sunshine, and humidity can become affected by the various forms of heat illness. These issues can span from heat rashes, to heat cramps, exhaustion, dehydration, and even heat stroke. If a worker were to suffer from a heat stroke they would need immediate medical attention in order to treat their ailment. All of these illnesses are serious and an effective plan to prevent them from happening is in the best interest of everyone involved in these companies.

Some of the main symptoms of heat illness have been bulleted by the CDC so that workers may be able to identify them correctly. The symptoms for heat stroke may include:

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech

As heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness, these symptoms are important to recognize. General signs of other heat related issues are dizziness, fatigue, nausea, cramps, flushed complexion, fast/shallow breathing, fainting and light-headedness just to name a few. If you are or one of your fellow workers is experiencing or displaying any of these symptoms, it’s important to take time to cool down and seek medical attention if necessary. As practicing Massachusetts workers compensation lawyers we have represented a number of workers that have suffered heat stroke and other heat related injuries.

The CDC website has also produced a list of immediate procedures that workers can use if they have correctly identified heat illness within themselves or a coworker. This knowledge could help prevent serious issues from striking and can provide a safer work environment for all.

Raising awareness of these issues and how to prevent and treat these illnesses is the main goal for organizations like OSHA and the CDC. Both companies are working closely with federal and state agencies to ensure that these guidelines are recognized and followed by all companies who hire outdoor workers.


Further information, guidelines, training and toolkits, as well as the list of procedures mentioned above can be found at the following links: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html




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