The summertime in Southern California can get hot. Tourists from other climates usually find the summer sun too intense and stay indoors in an air-conditioned room until the nighttime. Not everyone has the option, though, as many occupations require people to work outside, regardless of how hot it is.
Landscapers, construction workers, agricultural laborers, and more all work outdoors during the summer. They all also face increased danger of heat-related injuries while on-the-job. Perhaps it is no surprise to find out that certain workers’ compensation filings also increase during the summer months in SoCal.
Three of the worst summer-related injuries that pop up in more workers’ comp filings are:
- Heatstroke: Under the hot, bright summertime sun, heatstroke is a serious risk. When your body overheats – holding too high of a temperature for too long – it can cause a heatstroke, which can be fatal when severe or left untreated. Early warning signs of heatstroke are muscle cramps, dizziness, confusion, rapid pulse, headaches, and nausea. Many people who suffer from heatstroke do not report actually feeling thirsty, as you might assume.
- Dehydration: A plummet in your body’s water levels is called dehydration, which can also be fatal in severe cases. Dehydration is usually caused by excess sweating that is not counteracted with increased water intake. While dehydrated, your body loses fluids necessary to keep internal organs operating correctly, and electrolyte levels sink, which can cause dizziness or fainting.
- Sunburn: Extended exposure to direct sunlight can cause sunburn, sometimes in as brief a time as 20 minutes for certain people. The longer you are under the sun, the worse your sunburn can become. Immediate dangers of sunburn include a higher risk of dehydration and heatstroke. Lasting damage caused by a severe sunburn can culminate as malignant skin cancer.
How You Can Beat the Heat at Work
Heat-related work hazards are not to be taken lightly whether you are in Southern California or not. You should talk to your supervisor if you are concerned about being overexposed to the midday heat or sun and think extra precautions should be taken. After all, keeping employees happy and healthy helps prevent workplace injuries and illnesses, which increases productivity and decreases workers’ compensation insurance premiums for your employer. They really should be interested in doing what is in your best interests as an outdoor worker.
Here are a couple of quick tips to increase workplace safety in the heat of the summer:
- Hydration stations: There should be areas throughout your workplace or jobsite dedicated to allowing workers to drink water. The drinks should be provided by your employer, whether that means keeping coolers stocked with water bottles, setting up a temporary water fountain using a filtered hose, or some other means. Hydration is the most reliable way to combat dehydration and regulate your body temperature to stop overheating.
- Indoor breakrooms: Wherever possible, outdoor workplaces should create an indoor breakroom with air conditioning and more water available to workers. It can be as simple as renting a bungalow to put on the jobsite. Some foremen with temporary onsite offices will open their door to workers on a break to give them a chance to cool off, rather than just sitting in the shade where it can still feel sweltering.
- Sunhats and sunscreen: All workers should be provided with head protection and sunscreen to limit the risk of sunburn and heatstroke. At the least, outdoor jobsites should require workers to bring their own hats as they might require workers to bring their own set of tools.
- Symptom education: Employees should be educated about the warning signs of dehydration and heatstroke at the start of every summertime project. At the beginning of every week, supervisors should conduct another quick rundown of the symptoms to keep the information fresh in everyone’s minds. Recognizing the early symptoms and taking action can be the difference between a mild sunburn and a life-threatening heatstroke.