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Employees Working Outdoors At Risk in Indiana Heat

Jason Reese

Indiana’s Summer Temperatures Create Dangerous Work Conditions

July is the warmest month in Indiana when the average daytime temperature rises to 85.6°F. But both July and August months can see days that swelter into triple-digit temperatures affecting large areas of the state. This hotter weather can trigger dangerous conditions for Hoosiers working in outdoor operations conducted in hot weather and direct sun. In fact, every year thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure caused by extreme hot weather or humid conditions. In addition, more than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction injury, but workers in every field are susceptible. Indiana workers who are employed by farming operations, construction, oil and gas well operations, asbestos removal, road repair, landscaping, emergency response operations, and hazardous waste site activities, have an increased risk of heat-related illness, injury and death during Indiana’s hottest months.

Employer Responsibility to Protect Workers

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers these reminders to employers to take precautions and keep workers safe before a heat wave begins.

  • Provide workers with water every 15 minutes, let them rest and have access to shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat. A recent study of heat-related workplace fatalities found that most occurred during the worker’s first week on the job.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness and recognize these symptoms.
  • Heat Stroke: Signs include confusion, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Heat stroke happens when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature and is a medical emergency that may result in death.
  • Heat Exhaustion: Signs include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, and heavy sweating. Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to loss of fluids and salt caused by heavy sweating.
  • Heat Cramps: Tired, most worked muscles are usually the ones highly affected by heat cramps and caused by the loss of body salts and fluid during sweating. Cramps may occur during or after working hours and be so painful they prevent a worker from continuing their task.
  • Heat Rash: Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments and is caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Workers exposed to high temperatures should be aware of their employer’s heat illness prevention program.

Keeping Indiana Workers Cool

We are hopeful that more employers follow educational prevention programs to help reduce the number of worksite deaths and injuries due to heat related work environments this summer.

If you have been injured on the job because of an employer’s lack of providing a safe and healthful workplace during extreme heat or in a risky environment, give our work injury attorneys at call at (888) 204-8440 to schedule a free consultation.

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