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Extreme Heat Poses Worker Safety Risks in Georgia

Most people associate warm summer temperatures with pleasant beach vacations and cookouts. For Georgia workers, that outdoor heat can be dangerous. landscaper

Extreme heat must be taken seriously by both employers and employees.

What qualifies as “extreme heat” may vary by region, but it usually means temperatures that are about 10 degrees above normal, according to The Weather Channel. However, any temperature that is over 90 degrees is generally considered “extreme,” particularly when it is also accompanied by high levels of humidity. 

The good news for employees in Atlanta is that with the proper precautions, heat-related health hazards can be avoided. It’s important first to understand the potential effects. According to The Weather Channel, that can include:

  • Making You Feel Ill. It can range from nausea, diarrhea and fatigue to heat rash to muscle cramps. It may even escalate to dizziness and confusion. In some cases, fainting can occur when there is a decrease in blood flow due to excessive sweating.
  • Heat Exhaustion Can Occur. Heat exhaustion occurs when one’s body is depleted of either salt or water. If you start to feel tired, sweating excessively, feel nauseous, get muscle cramps or notice your urine is dark in color, start to drink non-alcohol, decaffeinated fluids. And get out of the heat! Failure to do so can result in heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. This occurs when one’s body temperature exceeds 103 degrees, they are experiencing nausea or vomiting, they are not sweating but have a severe headache. Sufferers may even lose consciousness.
  • Death can occur. It sounds extreme, but approximately 130 people every year die in the U.S. as a result of heat-related injuries. That’s based on data from the last three decades. A significant portion of those are workers.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recently launched a campaign to raise awareness about heat stroke. The agency is quick to notice that during hot weather, particularly when there is high humidity (as is wont to happen in Georgia), sweating isn’t enough to regulate the body’s temperature. It’s imperative that workers rest in the shade and get plenty of water to drink.

OSHA reports that just in 2014, nearly 2,700 workers suffered heat-related illnesses and 18 died as a result of exposure to high outdoor temperatures.

Employers need to take the risk seriously. That means establishing protocols that ensure workers toiling outdoors get the relief they need. That includes:

  • Providing enough water, shade and rest;
  • Granting new and returning workers frequent breaks from the heat as they get acclimated and build up a tolerance for working in the heat;
  • Watching workers for possible signs of illness;
  • Planning for emergencies and train workers on how to keep themselves safe and how to recognize when their co-workers may be experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Water should be drunk every 15 minutes, even when workers aren’t thirsty. Rest areas should be in the shade, and hats and light-colored clothing should be worn by all workers spending a great deal of time outdoors.

Our Atlanta workers’ compensation attorneys would also remind that all workers exposed to humid and hot temperatures are at possible risk for heat-related injury.

For information on Atlanta work injury compensation, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., at 1-404-303-7770.

Additional Resources:

Four Things Extreme Heat Does to Your Body, June 20, 2016, By Linda Lam, Weather.com

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