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CDC, OSHA urging workers to remember dangers of heat stroke

With warmer temperatures finally returning to the long range forecast here in Chicago and summer right around the corner, workers can once again look forward to eating their lunches outside and talking walks over their breaks. However, federal officials and work safety advocacy groups are advising both employees and employers to be on the lookout for an especially dangerous form of work injury.

Specifically, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are urging workplaces to be on the lookout for signs of heat-related stress, a condition that seriously sickens and even kills thousands of workers here in the United States every year.

According to the agencies, heat-related stress occurs when the body's core internal temperature rises in response to prolonged exposure to extremely hot and/or humid conditions. While this heat stress can result in more minor conditions like heat cramps or heat exhaustion, it can also result in emergency situations like heat stroke.

It's important to understand, say agency experts, that certain workers are more susceptible to heat-related work stress than others, including those with heart conditions, those with high blood pressure, those who are overweight and those who are older (65 and up). However, they also caution that heat stress doesn't discriminate and can affect virtually anyone.

If a worker is showing signs of heat-related work stress, the CDC and OSHA offer the following suggestions:

  • Have the worker stop what they are doing and take them to a cool place where they can sit
  • Have the worker drink water or a sports drink that replaces lost electrolytes
  • Have cool compresses at the ready to help lower the worker's internal body temperature
  • Call 911 if heat stroke is suspected 

Finally, it should be noted that experts advise those employers whose employees must work in hot and humid conditions to provide them with plenty of water, rest and shade. Furthermore, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists advises that no worker should be allowed to work if their core body temperature exceeds 100.4 degrees.

Consider speaking with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to learn more about your rights and your options if you have suffered serious injuries in an industrial workers' accident.

Source: EHS Today, "Cool down: Preventing workplace heat stress," Dan Linder, May 7, 2013

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