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In Summer, Workers are Vulnerable to Heat Illness

by Kara Dolan-West | Jun 21, 2021 | Workplace Accidents and Injuries

Here we are in June of 2021! Though it is still early summer, many parts of the country have already experienced intense heat waves. Those places that have not yet felt the full blast of summer soon will. Ohio is prone to very hot days in summer, sometimes reaching temperatures of 90 degrees or higher. 

Additionally, with the COVID pandemic on the decline, more and more employees are finding themselves returning to work, often with employers who perform work outdoors. 

People who spend most of their days indoors may not think about it, but the sun can make you sick. Many jobs, such as construction or agricultural work, require workers to spend their time outside. Without proper and reasonable precautions, like sufficient rest breaks and access to water, heat illnesses can occur. It is important to know the warning signs of heat illnesses. 

The first stage of heat illness is called heat cramps. As the National Institutes of Health explains, symptoms of heat cramps include:

  • Cramping and pain, usually in the legs or abdomen
  • Heavy sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst

Besides being unpleasant on its own, heat cramps are a warning sign that heat exhaustion could be coming. This second level of heat illness can cause:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness and light-headedness
  • Weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Dark urine

The final phase of heat illness is heat stroke, which is very serious and potentially fatal. Symptoms of heatstroke include:

  • Fever above 104 degrees
  • Irrational behavior
  • Extreme confusion
  • Dry, hot, and red skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

Heat illness usually can be prevented with precautions, like the breaks and fluids mentioned above. You may also consider avoiding heavy physical activity during, especially hot weather. However, heat exhaustion and heatstroke can still occur, even when precautions are taken. Even when the victim survives, he or she may need to take a long time to recover.

An employee may also suffer injury from extreme sun exposure in the form of sunburns. Remember to wear sunblock, especially if you are outside with long periods of exposure to the summer sun. Additionally, it is no uncommon for heat stroke to occur even when an employee is working in a covered workspace if that space is not air-conditioned and ventilated properly. If you lose consciousness due to the sun or heat, you may suffer a compensable injury. Be sure to fill out a First Report of Injury if you suffer from a work-related injury of any type. 

Many types of jobs can open you to the possibility of a summer work injury. To name a few: construction, restaurants, farming, park and recreation work, landscaping and trucking. It is also important to remember that not only adults are prone to injuries and heat exhaustion in the summer months. The youth of Ohio are also at risk and are covered by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation as well. 

Ohio teens are often busy with summer jobs that involve lifeguarding, mowing lawns, and other outdoor work. Even if you are under the age of sixteen, you can still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you are hurt on a summer job. Prior to accepting a summer job, especially if the position involves labor outdoors, you may want to confirm that your summer employer has workers’ compensation coverage. Keep in mind, even if the employer does not have coverage, you may still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits and medical coverage should you suffer a summer work accident or illness. 

If you have suffered a heat illness or heat stroke, you may be entitled to wage replacement benefits or medical treatment under the workers’ compensation system in Ohio. 

It is important that you seek medical treatment right away if you have fallen ill due to exposure to the sun and heat. This medical information will be necessary to secure benefits, it your injury or illness requires you to take a break from the workforce to recover. 

As mentioned above, heat exposure can even result in death. If your loved one has fallen victim to extreme heat temperatures resulting in serious injury or death, the dependents of him or her may be entitled to death benefits. 

We hope all our readers stay safe on the job this summer. But if a workplace accident, illness, or injury happens, you may qualify for workers’ compensation to help pay the resulting costs. If you have questions or concerns about your claim or prospective claim, contact an attorney for assistance. 

Tags: Construction Workers Accidents extreme sun exposure Heat illness Heat related work injury Summer workers' compensation Workers' Compensation