As the temperature rises, so does the potential for certain injuries and heat-related illnesses, especially amongst Georgia’s outdoor workers.
As the temperature rises, so does the potential for certain injuries and heat-related illnesses, especially amongst Georgia’s outdoor workers. In Georgia, high temperatures combined with high humidity during the summer months create especially harsh conditions for some Georgia workers, increasing the potential for certain injuries and illnesses, including: heat stress, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke. Hot conditions make strokes and heart attacks more likely. Additionally, occupational accidents occur more frequently in hot conditions.
Heat is not the only concern for increased hazards faced by outdoor workers in the summer months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Environmental Health reports 8,015 deaths in the United States from 1979 and 1999 due to excessive heat exposure. Additionally, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that lightning kills about 80 people in the United States each year and injures hundreds more. Furthermore, outdoor workers are at increased risk of injury from biological hazards which include: vector-born diseases, venomous wildlife and insects, and poisonous plants. Vector-borne diseases may be spread to workers by insects, such as mosquitoes, or ticks.
Physical exertion in hot weather also increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Many employers assume such incidents are not compensable under workers’ compensation law. However, workers’ have been able to recover workers’ compensation benefits for heart attack and stroke where the employee can show that his work activities or conditions were contributing factors of the attack.
Employers can help mitigate the risks of outdoor hazards by taking a few simple steps:
– Encourage workers to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Sports drinks can help replace the salt and minerals lost by workers’ due to perspiration.
– Encourage workers to wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen. Lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing is best for outdoor wear during summer months. Hats and sunglasses can help protect against the sun’s harmful rays.
– Allow employees to take breaks from strenuous outdoor work in a cool, shady, or air-conditioned location.
– Train employees about the signs of heat exhaustion and the outdoor hazards they may face.