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How to protect yourself from heat illness on the job

As an outdoor laborer in any industry, one of the hazards you face in the summertime is heat illness. Even when the temperature is moderate, being out in the sun for long stretches of time while wearing heavy protective gear can cause you to overheat quickly. You may experience heat rash, stroke or exhaustion.

Heat illnesses are a real danger because they affect both your health and your safety while performing tasks. They are also a common risk factor, affecting thousands of workers each year. Take these preventive steps to avoid sickness and injury on the job:

  • Check humidity levels and sun exposure in addition to temperatures, as high humidity and direct sunlight can make the temperature feel hotter than it is.
  • Wear light-colored clothing that is breathable and loose, especially when there is no breeze.
  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool areas and stay hydrated, even if you feel fine.
  • Watch out for yourself and fellow workers by knowing what are the signs of heat illness, how to treat it and where medical supplies are.
  • If you start feeling sick, seek medical attention immediately before your condition worsens.
  • If you are starting a new job or returning to an old one, gradually acclimate yourself to working outside to build heat tolerance and avoid overdoing it too soon.
  • If you have to wear additional protective gear, recognize that risk increases and act accordingly.

Of course, even if you take the necessary precautions, some things are out of your control. Perhaps your employer does not allow enough breaks or the company is understaffed. Whatever the reason, your workplace not helping to protect you from heat illness is a liability.

If you experience heat-related sickness on the job, whether or not you become injured as a result, you may have a workers’ compensation claim. The law also protects you from employer retaliation for filing a complaint or claim.

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