It’s June, which means summer is just around the corner. Here in Southern California, we can expect another hot summer period. For construction workers and everyone else who spends most of their workday outside, the intense heat can be more than an annoyance. Without the proper precautions, it can make you sick and even put your life at risk.
Responsible contractors, subcontractors and other employers can take reasonable steps to protect their workers from heat-related work illnesses like heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Here are few examples:
- Allow workers to acclimate to hot conditions over a period of seven to 14 days
- Use powered assistance to reduce physical exertion
- Provide water and encourage frequent drinking to avoid dehydration
- Provide a shaded and/or air-conditioned place for workers to take breaks
Workers can also contribute to their own health while working in hot weather:
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing to work
- Put on sunscreen and reapply every two hours
- Try to do the most physically demanding jobs early or late in the day, when temps are relatively cool
- Drink plenty of fluids
These precautions are important to avoid serious work illnesses. Exposure to intense heat and sunlight can cause heat exhaustion, which causes heavy sweating, dizziness, a rapid pulse and low blood pressure when standing up. If not treated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, which can damage multiple organs, including your brain and heart. Heatstroke can be fatal, and if you survive, you could be unable to work for a long time as you recover.
Fortunately, if you suffer a heat-related illness on the job, you may qualify for workers’ compensation.