This week is a scorcher!! From New York all the way to North Carolina, the National Weather Service has issued warnings of a heat wave on the east coast. In addition to staying indoors and out of the sun, here are some tips for safety in the heat.
On the job
- WATER: Be sure to stay hydrated! Drinking water is always a good idea. Also consider something with electrolytes, like Gatorade or Smart Water. Excessive sweating depletes electrolytes, which are not replenished by water alone. Loss of electrolytes can lead to a feeling of faintness and other symptoms.
- REST: Take breaks from the sun and heat.
- SHADE: Stay in the shade as much as possible.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recommends increased water, rest, and shade for new workers or those that have been away from the job for a week or more. Temporary or new workers who are not accustomed to extreme heat are at a particular risk for heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.
- Certain outdoor jobs such as construction and agricultural work require extra protections to ensure worker safety from the heat. In particular, roofers working during the summer are at very high risk for heat stress.
- OSHA does not have a specific standard for work done in hot weather. However, the OSH Act creates a duty for employers to protect employees from recognized hazards, such as heat- related hazards. OSHA has developed a “heat index” guide for outdoor workers who are at risk and need extra protection. The North Carolina Department of Labor in Raleigh has also undergone a public awareness campaign to urge employers and employees to be aware of the dangers of working in hot conditions.
- Fortunately, North Carolina courts have found that when your job puts you at an increased risk for heat stress, you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for heat- related injuries.
In the car
- Never EVER leave children, pets, or disabled adults unattended in the car. This year, 21 children have been reported dead as a result of becoming overheated in cars. That is almost twice the amount at the same time last year.
- North Carolina has one of the highest fatality rates in the country due to our hot climate. Earlier this summer in Wilmington, an 8 month old was found dead in his mother’s vehicle when she went to pick him up from daycare. The child most likely had been in the car since the morning hours. Remember to check the back seat every time that you leave the car. At times, we all get very busy and preoccupied. The organization KidsAndCars.org recommends leaving a stuffed animal in the front seat as a reminder that your child is in the backseat.
- Some children are also injured by a hot car that they climb into. Be sure to lock doors behind you and keep keys away from children who may be tempted to explore.
- The best place to be during the heat!
- Check that your AC is properly functioning and continue to stay hydrated.
- Make sure that the elderly, disabled, and children have properly functioning air conditioning.
- Consider energy efficiency updates to your home to minimize electric bills during the hottest months of the year. Small changes such as keeping blinds closed during the day can keep your house cooler and lower your bills.
- Apply sunscreen! Sunburn, especially on young children or the elderly, can be very serious. Be sure to thoroughly apply sunscreen with a high SPF in all areas that may be exposed to the sun.
- Wear a hat for extra protection from the heat and harmful UV rays.
- Keep pets inside or, if need be, in a shaded area with plenty of water.
- Beware of dry heat. As someone who has spent most of my life in the southeast, I know all too well the feeling of sticky humidity on my brow. However, when traveling to somewhere with dry heat be extra cautious of the more subtle heat that can also cause dehydration and other heat stress.
Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In the event of exposure to the heat that is causing a throbbing headache, no sweating, nausea, or a rapid and strong pulse call 911 immediately to report a possible heat stroke.