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Working outdoors in the summer could be hazardous to your health

Summer is here, and it's getting hot. If you work outside, you probably already felt the Kentucky heat. Knowing how to protect yourself from it while on the job could end up saving your life.

Now is the time to take precautions to make sure that you don't suffer a heat-related illness such as heat stroke, which can be deadly, heat rash, heat cramps or heat exhaustion.

Factors that create the perfect storm

The following factors increase your risk of succumbing to a heat-related illness:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not working in the heat before
  • Exposure to direct sunlight
  • High heat and humidity
  • No wind or breeze
  • Heavy physical labor
  • Wearing waterproof clothing

Between you and your employer, you may be able to limit your risk.

What you and your employer can do

Part of your employer's job is to ensure your safety, even from the heat. In order to do so, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration outlines the following steps:

  • Training regarding identification and prevention of heat-related illnesses
  • Creating a heat prevention program
  • Modifying work schedules
  • Adding more breaks in shade or air-conditioning
  • Providing plenty of cool water
  • Assigning someone to monitor for heat stress

Employees who are not used to working in the heat should be gradually introduced to it to provide enough time to get used to it. You can take the following steps to help protect yourself:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Drinking water often
  • Avoiding drinks containing caffeine or alcohol
  • Blocking out heat sources and the sun if possible
  • Wearing light-colored, loose and lightweight clothing
  • Using the buddy system

In addition, you may want to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of heat illnesses.

Watch out for these danger signs

Undetected and/or uncorrected heat exhaustion could easily turn into heat stroke. Watch out for the following signs that you may be in danger:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Fainting
  • Feeling irritable
  • Experiencing a headache
  • Feeling confused
  • Experiencing weakness
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Noticing your skin is wet
  • Feeling thirsty
  • Vomiting

If you stop sweating, can't think clearly or collapse, you may want to get out of the heat immediately. You may also need medical attention right away, especially if you pass out or begin having seizures.

What if you do suffer a heat-related illness?

If you do suffer a heat-related illness despite your best efforts, you may be out of work for a while depending on the circumstances. In any case, you will probably need medical attention. Since your illness occurred at work, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

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