As the Kentucky summer heats up, many experienced attorneys will begin to see more clients who have suffered injury or illness after being exposed to excessive heat while on the job. Workers who labor outdoors are at particular risk, as are those who wear bulky protective clothing or equipment, and workers who have not yet built up a tolerance to the heat.
Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is unable to reduce its own core temperature sufficiently. Excessive heat can cause heat-related illness or injury, and so can a lack of water or a problem with the body’s ability to produce perspiration to cool itself.
Symptoms of heat-related illness include heat rash, cramps, excessive sweating, lack of sweating, dizziness, weakness, or vomiting. Workers who have any of these symptoms need prompt medical care. Symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke can prove fatal if not treated.
Preventing heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or heatstroke involves three factors: water, shade, and rest. Encourage workers to take frequent drinks of water throughout the day, and make sure work is done in the shade whenever possible. A short break every hour or during the hottest part of the day can also provide needed relief.
When first returning to work in a hot environment after being away for more than a few weeks, or when starting a new job, it’s important to work up to doing heavy labor gradually, in order to build up a tolerance to the heat. Employers should assign lighter duties to workers who are just starting out in the heat for at least a week, in order to help their bodies adjust to the temperature. Doing so can prevent heat-related illness from harming workers or reducing productivity.
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