Feeling the heat: Protecting outside workers from heat stroke in Texas

Heat stroke is a serious medical condition that may affect outside workers, but it may be prevented if employers and workers take certain precautions.

In Houston, and throughout Texas, there are many people who work outdoors. All occupations have some risk of illness and injury. However, workers who perform heavy physical labor outside may have an increased risk for heat-related illnesses during the hot summer months. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, thousands of employees suffer from heat illnesses, including heat stroke, each year. By taking certain precautions, this potentially fatal condition may be prevented.

What is heat stroke?

According to the Mayo Clinic, heat stroke is a medical condition that may occur if a person's body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This condition is typically caused by physical exertion in, or extended exposure to, elevated temperatures. If left untreated, workers may suffer damage to their muscles, kidneys, heart or brain. This type of work injury could result in serious medical complications, which may be covered by workers' compensation benefits.

People who suffer from heat stroke may experience a range of symptoms. Some of the most common signs include the following:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Hot, red or dry skin
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Very high body temperature

It can be important for workers and employers alike to understand the signs and symptoms of heat stroke. By knowing what to watch out for, they can identify this type of heat illness early and seek emergency assistance.

How can employers prevent heat stroke?

State and federal laws require employers to provide their employees with a safe work environment. For those with outside workers, this includes taking steps to prevent heat stroke. It is essential for employers to educate their employees about heat-related hazards and prevention precautions.

Additionally, employers should schedule frequent breaks to give workers the opportunity to rest in a shaded or air-conditioned area and drink water. According to OSHA, employers should provide employees with plenty of water that is easily accessible. It is also important for employers to regularly check in with outdoor workers, especially those who have an increased risk for heat stroke. In some cases, failing to take steps to prevent heat-related illnesses may be considered employer negligence.

What can outside workers do to prevent heat stroke?

There are steps that outside workers can take to avoid suffering heat stroke. It is important for those who work outdoors to drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages. Furthermore, it can be useful to block out direct sunlight and other heat sources when possible. Using a buddy system may help people to closely monitor themselves and their co-workers for the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses.

Wearing the appropriate clothing is also an important step for people to prevent heat stroke. For outside workers, it is best to wear clothing that is lightweight and light colored. They should also avoid wearing clothing that is tight and instead opt for loose-fitting clothes.

Seeking legal guidance

When Texas workers suffer heat stroke on the job, the effects can be devastating for them, and their families. Those who develop this heat-related condition while working are generally entitled to workers' compensation benefits. However, obtaining these benefits can be a complicated process. As such, people who have suffered occupational heat stroke may find it helpful to obtain legal representation. An attorney may help them understand what benefits they may be entitled to, as well as guide them through the claims process.

Keywords: workers' compensation, job, injury, benefits