Identifying and Managing Heat Stress at Work [infographic]
Identifying and managing heat stress at work is necessary to prevent heat-related injuries and deaths among workers who are exposed to extreme temperatures. Employers should provide adequate training on what heat stress is and how to work safely in extremely hot conditions. They should also provide a safe working environment where the risk of sustaining heat-related work injuries is minimized.
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Heat-Related Risks at Work
Workers who are exposed to extreme heat and those who work in hot environments are at risk of suffering from heat-related injuries and illnesses. Heat stress can cause cramps, severe rashes, heat strokes, or heat exhaustion. Moreover, extreme heat increases workers’ risk of accidents that result in personal injury. Dizziness and foggy thinking caused by extreme heat can result in fall accidents and risk-taking. Burns can also occur due to accidental contact with heated surfaces.
At-risk workers include miners, factory workers, bakery workers, firefighters, farmers, construction workers and others who are exposed to extremely hot temperatures at work. Workers facing a greater risk of suffering from heat stress are the elderly, the overweight, people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and those taking medications that affect the regulation of body temperature.
Identifying Heat Stress
Common heat stress-related symptoms include profuse sweating or lack of sweat, dizziness, and collapsing. Workers should be trained on the dangers of heat stress including the effects of:
- consuming alcohol
- undertaking strenuous physical activities in hot weather
- medications affected by heat such as those that inhibit perspiration or affect the ability to regulate body temperature
Heat stress is induced by exposure to extreme temperatures, wearing inappropriate clothing in the heat, not drinking enough water, or taking on heavy workloads and long shifts during hot weather. Other factors include lack of shading, poor ventilation, and increased relative humidity.
It is common for heat stress signs to go unnoticed by victims. Effects may present as confusion or the inability to concentrate at work, often followed by severe symptoms like collapsing or fainting. Immediate first aid procedures are necessary to prevent further harm.
Employees who are injured while at work are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. A victim who fails to receive the benefits owed to him or her following a heat stress-related incident is free to seek legal redress by hiring a workers comp lawyer for representation.