Keeping New York workers safe in the heat

This summer is turning out to be a particularly steamy one for many parts of the country, and while the temperatures haven't been "record high" in New York, there are still countless workers exposed to hot and humid environments on a daily basis. What many employees - and in some cases, their employers - don't realize is that heat-related illnesses can result in serious injury and even death.

What are heat-related illnesses?

Sometimes when the body is exposed to hot and humid conditions, it simply cannot cool itself enough. When that happens, heat exhaustion and other heat-related, on-the-job injuries can occur. According to information about heat illnesses provided by the New York City Department of Health, heat exhaustion can cause nausea, vomiting, clammy skin, weakness and dizziness. When the body's temperature spikes suddenly, heat stroke is possible. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, and it can cause death if not properly treated. The NYCDH also gives some guidance about the warning signs of heat stroke, which include excessive sweating, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, confusion, hallucinations and light-headedness.

Who's at risk?

Obviously, those working outside in the summer heat, including construction workers, landscapers, roofers, painters, window washers, delivery persons, law enforcement professionals and utility workers are at high risk. People working inside with no air conditioning or little ventilation, metal workers, restaurant chefs and those in commercial bakeries (and other factory positions) can also succumb to the heat.

Heat-related illnesses are more common in the elderly, those unaccustomed to the heat (like new hires who have not yet built up a tolerance or workers returning from an extended break), those taking medications that make them more susceptible to heat (antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines are notorious for this) and those who have pre-existing medical conditions.

Prevention

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is definitely true when it comes to preventing heat-related illnesses. Employers and workers who understand the dangers associated with excess heat and humidity can take steps to ensure that their bodies are not overcome by the stress of hot, humid weather.

The most important thing that any outdoor worker (or one in a heated indoor environment) to remember is that water is absolutely crucial. Drinking at least one cup of cooled water every 15 to 20 minutes can go a long way toward keeping the body's temperature under control.

Wearing loose-fitting clothing and a hat to protect the body from the sun's rays can also be beneficial. Another helpful hint is to avoid alcohol and caffeine when working in the heat; both of these actually dehydrate the body, so they can diminish the effectiveness of proper water consumption. Taking breaks in the shade often, using fans or air conditioners whenever possible, and wearing light-colored clothes will also help put the body in an optimum position to fight the heat and humidity.

Are you a New York worker who has succumbed to a heat-related illness on the job? Do you need more information about seeking benefits on behalf of a loved one who tragically passed away after suffering a heat stroke or heat exhaustion? If so, seek the advice of an experienced workers compensation attorney in your area.