Imagine cooking over a hot stove or working on a rooftop construction site when temperatures climb into the 90s and higher. Outdoor jobs become more than just uncomfortable - workers risk developing a heat-related illness when physical activity and high temperatures are combined.
Oregon OSHA encourages employers and workers to understand common signs of heat exhaustion. A person overcome with heat exhaustion will still sweat but may experience extreme fatigue, nausea, lightheadedness, or a headache. If heat exhaustion is not treated promptly, the illness could progress to heat stroke and possibly even death.
"Workers in Oregon aren't acclimated to working in this type of heat," said Penny Wolf-McCormick, health enforcement manager for Oregon OSHA. "It's important to drink water, seek shade during the day, and recognize the signs of trouble."
From 2008 through 2012, 35 people received benefits through Oregon's workers' compensation system for heat-related illnesses. In at least two cases, truck drivers without air conditioning suffered from heat exhaustion.
To help those suffering from heat exhaustion:
Heat stroke is a different condition than heat exhaustion. There are several reactions that occur in the human body with heat stroke: hot, red skin (looks like sunburn); mood changes; irritability and confusion; and collapsing (person will not respond to verbal commands). Call for emergency help immediately if you think the person is suffering from heat stroke. If not treated quickly, the condition can result in death.
Here are some tips for preventing a heat-related illness:
Employers can calculate the heat index for their worksite with the federal OSHA heat stress app for mobile phones. The tool is available at http://1.usa.gov/1aUWEmg. A number of other tools are also available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html.
Oregon OSHA also has a pocket-sized booklet available, in both English and Spanish, with tips for working in the heat: www.orosha.org/pdf/pubs/4926.pdf (English version).
Suterra LLC, Bend
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