Hot Weather Worker Safety

Beat the Heat With These Hot Weather Tips

Louisiana summers are synonymous with high temperatures and humidity. From June to September, average high temperatures in Louisiana are in excess of 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Add in humidity and the “feels like” temperatures can be as high as 120 degrees. And we know hot and humid summers in Baton Rouge.

Whether we like it or not, evidence is showing that record-high temperatures are likely here to stay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded worldwide, and the span of 2013 to 2021 was all among the 10 hottest years on record. 

Each year, more than 600 people die due to extreme heat, despite the fact that all heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What can you do to beat the heat? It starts with knowing the signs of a heat-related illness.  

Recognize the Signs of a Heat-Related Illness 

Even a short exposure can cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. For people who work outdoors, heat exposure can become especially problematic. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that even though illness from exposure to heat is preventable, every year thousands become sick from occupational heat exposure, with some cases turning fatal. The reason, OSHA explains, is that the body needs to build a tolerance to extreme heat gradually over time. Having a heat acclimatization plan in place is a great way to beat Louisiana’s heat, as nearly three out of four heat-related workplace fatalities occur within the first week of work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers an informative list of precautions as well through its publications from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

If your schedule does not allow for flexibility to work or be outside when the heat is less oppressive, it’s important to recognize the differences between heat exhaustion and heat stroke.  

Heat exhaustion: Dizzy, excessive sweating, excessive fatigue. You need to slow down immediately and get to an area in shade or better yet, with air conditioning. 

Heat stroke: High body temperature (104°F and above), hot skin, fast pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, losing consciousness    

Beat the Heat With These Hot Weather Tips

Even though many Louisianans are accustomed to heat and humidity, it doesn’t mean heat exhaustion or heat stroke can’t affect you. So, what can workers, or anyone for that matter, do to stay safe? Beat the Louisiana heat with these hot weather tips.  

1. Stay hydrated.

No matter how active you are, when you’re out in the heat, you need to drink plenty of fluids (at least 4 cups of water every hour). Aim for both water and some other electrolyte-replacing fluid. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, either. By the time you’re aware of your thirst, you could already be in danger. Avoid caffeine if possible. 

2. Dress right.

If possible, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. You may be required to wear a certain uniform or certain gear for your job, but as much as possible, dress for success in hot weather. Bring a damp rag to wipe your face or wrap around your neck. Wet it again as often as you can throughout your workday.

3. Wear sunscreen.

Sunburn hurts your body’s ability to cool down and can speed up dehydration. While working outside in high heat, put on a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going out. Then, keep reapplying it according to the package directions.

4. Take frequent, regular breaks.

Again, this may be limited by the rules of your job, but as much as you can, take frequent breaks someplace cool and out of direct sunlight. If your heart starts pounding and you’re gasping for breath, or if you’re becoming confused, weak, or lightheaded, head for a shaded or air-conditioned area and sip water. Once you’re able to get back to work, take things a little easier than before.

5. Use a buddy system.

If your coworkers will be working with you outside, partner up with someone to keep tabs on each other. Study the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or dehydration, and know how to respond if they show up for you or a coworker. Watch out for each other and try to make sure everyone else is doing the same.

Employers need to provide the breaks you need to work safely, and if they aren’t, that’s a big problem. Don’t just shrug it off if you think your workplace is requiring you to endanger yourself. Find out your rights and make sure you’re getting the protection you deserve. If you’ve already suffered a heat-related illness or injury due to an unsafe working environment and wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.