Summer is in full force in Philadelphia and the temperatures have been hot! Recent weather conditions for heat and humidity have broken long standing records, making this summer one of the hottest ever. For construction workers, heat and high temperatures can cause heat stroke and other life-threatening conditions. Exposure to sun, high heat, and stifling humidity take a physical toll on those working in these conditions.
Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke are the three most common illnesses related to working in extreme heat and humidity. Workers can quickly dehydrate if they do not have drinking water available. As dehydration increases, workers can exhibit symptoms of heat exhaustion that include headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, moist skin, confusion, irritability, and vomiting.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition that can cause death if not promptly treated. Symptoms of heat stroke include dry hot skin, no perspiration, loss of consciousness, seizures, and convulsions. It is vital that victims displaying any kind of symptoms related to dehydration, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke get medical help immediately. Progression of any of these conditions can be fatal.
Construction employers can take precautions to help workers when temperatures rise to dangerous levels. Providing mist machines that dispense cool water to help cool down workers can prevent heat-related illnesses. Workers can gradually acclimate to the weather conditions by limiting their hours at the start of a heat wave, gradually increasing them as their bodies adjust to the heat index. Supplies of fresh, cool drinking water should be readily available to workers, and they should be encouraged to rehydrate at 15- to 20-minute intervals.
Frequent breaks can include rest in shady areas or in front of cooling fans. Supervisors should schedule the heaviest work tasks for early in the morning when temperatures are cooler, leaving light work for the afternoon heat. Rotating workers to various jobs can help limit their exposure to the sun. For those who must wear heavy protective equipment, be sure that their blood pressure and heart rate are checked regularly throughout the day.
Anytime a worker shows signs of a heat-related illness, it is imperative that coworkers and supervisors take immediate action and call 911. The affected worker should be moved to a shady spot and their clothing should be loosened to allow air to circulate. Fans should be placed near the victim and cool wet cloths should be used to wipe down their skin. Never attempt to give water to an unconscious person. Instead, wipe a cool wet rag on their lips, face, and pulse points to lower their body temperature.
Prevention is the key to a safe work environment. Preparing for work in high temperatures and checking on coworkers regularly is the best prevention for avoiding heat related illnesses.
If you have suffered a heat-related illness or other work-related injury, call the Philadelphia construction accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP at 800-222-USWA (8792), or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading offices serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.