With spring and then summer around the corner, the weather will quickly heat up in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with temperatures routinely getting into the 90s and over 100 degrees in the long summer. With the improved weather, work performed outside will increase dramatically. This is good for the local economy, but many outside laborers—and others working in high heat—risk suffering heat-related illnesses that if ignored could cause them to develop occupational illnesses or die.
Which Employees Are At Risk for Overheating?
Heat-related illnesses result when the temperature is high and workers are engaging in moderate to high levels of physical activity—made worse when they must work in the hot sun all day. In this situation, their bodies would cool themselves by evaporating sweat. Unfortunately, when it is humid—common in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—the body is less able to do this. Workers most at risk of heat-related diseases are not just those who work outside. They include:
- Outdoor workers such as gardeners and laborers
- Bakery workers
- Construction workers
- Factory workers
- Boiler room workers
Workers who face an even higher risk are those who are 65 years old or older, are overweight, have heart disease, have high blood pressure, or take certain medications.
Three Heat-Related Illnesses Workers Can Suffer
Workers may often ignore the signs of heat-related conditions. Symptoms to watch for include:
- Heavy sweating or no sweating
- High body temperature
- Muscle cramps
- Fast and labored breathing
Employees working in the heat may not realize how serious a heat-related condition can be. Common illnesses they could develop include:
- Heatstroke. This is the most serious disorder and occurs when the person’s body cannot control his temperature. If the worker does not receive immediate medical care, he could suffer permanent disability or die.
- Heat exhaustion. A person can develop this illness if his body has lost an excessive amount of salt and water—usually from excessive sweating. Resting in a cool environment, drinking lots of water, and taking a cool shower often will reduce the symptoms.
- Heat syncope. When a laborer has been standing for long periods of time in the heat or stands up suddenly, he may experience dizziness or faintness. Moving to a cooler environment and drinking cool fluids like water or juices can help stabilize the worker’s condition.
Many outdoor laborers or others at risk of heat-related illnesses are employed by non-subscriber employers who have opted out of workers’ compensation.
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