How to Stay Safe During an Extreme Heat Wave

Over the next several days and weeks, several U.S. states are facing warnings of extreme heat waves. And if you’re unprepared for it, extreme heat can be deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600 people die each year in the U.S. due to extreme heat, often from heatstroke, which occurs when the body’s temperature reaches 104°F or higher.

And whether we like it or not, evidence shows the record high temperatures are here to stay. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded worldwide, and the years 2013 to 2021 were all among the 10 hottest years on record. 

Millions of Workers Exposed to Heat in Their Workplaces

While some Arizona workers are certainly used to working in the heat, that doesn’t make it any easier. The Industrial Commission of Arizona statement on heat stress awareness says, “worksites involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources (e.g., sunlight, hot exhaust), high humidity, direct contact with hot objects, or strenuous physical activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illnesses.” 

And according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), even though illness from exposure to heat is preventable, every year thousands become sick from occupational heat exposure with some cases turning fatal. The reason, OSHA explains, is that the body needs to build a tolerance to extreme heat gradually over time. A lack of time for acclimating to the temperature becomes a major risk factor for cases involving serious injury or death, which is why the first few days of working in warm or hot environments is critical. Between 50 and 70 percent of all outdoor fatalities occur during this time. 

Safety Tips for Staying Safe in the Heat

All across Arizona, thousands of workers are facing the potential dangers of working outside in extreme heat. So, what can workers, or anyone for that matter, do to stay safe? These safety tips for staying safe in the heat can help.

1. Stay hydrated.

No matter how active you are, when you’re out in the heat, you need to drink plenty of fluids (at least 4 cups of water every hour). Aim for both water and some other electrolyte-replacing fluid. Avoid caffeine if possible.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, either. By the time you’re aware of your thirst, your body could already be in danger.

2. Dress right.

If possible, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. You may be required to wear a certain uniform or certain gear for your job, but as much as possible, dress for success in hot weather. Bring a damp rag to wipe your face or wrap around your neck. Wet it again as often as you can throughout your workday.

3. Wear sunscreen.

Sunburn hurts your body’s ability to cool down and can speed up dehydration. While working outside in high heat, put on a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes before going out. Then, keep reapplying it according to the package directions.

4. Take frequent, regular breaks.

Again, this may be limited by the rules of your job, but as much as you can, take frequent breaks someplace cool and out of direct sunlight. If your heart starts pounding and you’re gasping for breath, or if you’re becoming confused, weak, or lightheaded, head for a shaded or air-conditioned area and sip water. Once you’re able to get back to work, take things a little easier than before.

5. Use a buddy system.

If your coworkers will be working with you outside, partner up with someone to keep tabs on each other. Study the symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or dehydration, and know how to respond if they show up for you or a coworker. Watch out for each other and try to make sure everyone else is doing the same.

Contact Bache & Lynch if You’ve Suffered a Heat-Related Illness or Injury

Employers need to provide the breaks you need to work safely, and if they aren’t, that’s a big problem. Don’t just shrug it off if you think your workplace is requiring you to endanger yourself. Find out your rights and make sure you’re getting the protection you deserve. If you’ve already suffered a heat-related illness or injury due to an unsafe working environment or wish to discuss the specifics of your case in a free consultation with an experienced Tucson personal injury lawyer, please contact us today