TX DWC Offers Information On Protection Against Heat-Related Illnesses

Austin, TX (CompNewsNetwork) - The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation (TDI-DWC) urges Texas employers to help prevent heat-related injuries and illnesses. During the summer many dangers exist for all people working outdoors, ranging from sun-damaged skin to fatal conditions. In 2007, heat-related illnesses resulted in three work-related fatalities in Texas, according to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) in Texas in 2007:

    * Exposure to environmental heat was also a factor in a total of 280 work-related, nonfatal injuries or illnesses requiring days away from work.
    * Males were reported as having the most heat-related incidents (270).
    * Employees in the age range of 20-24 years reported the highest incidents (140).
    * The occupation group with the highest number of nonfatal heat-related incidents was installation, maintenance and repair (130); and the second highest occupation was transportation and material moving (70).

Extended exposure to a hot environment can tax the body beyond its ability to cool. The effects of heat can be magnified in the very young, elderly and those with medical conditions. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and heat stress such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and most dangerous, heat stroke, and by taking precautions can help prevent their onset. Symptoms indicative of heat exhaustion, which is caused by the loss of large amounts of fluid and/or salt sweating, include: clammy and moist skin; extreme weakness or fatigue; giddiness; nausea; headache; or fainting. Warning signs of heat stroke vary, but could include: an extremely high body temperature (above 103°, orally); red hot, and dry skin (no sweating); rapid, strong, pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; or unconsciousness. Prompt assessment of employees experiencing any of these symptoms, and the delivery of appropriate first aid or emergency medical care are advised.

The best defense against heat-related illnesses is prevention. The following tips can aid in protecting employees from extreme heat conditions:

    * drink 16 – 32 ounces of cool fluids each hour when working outdoors;
    * replace salt and minerals with electrolyte drinks;
    * do not rush; a slower but steady pace reduces stress on the body; 
    * avoid working in direct sunlight whenever possible, and take frequent breaks;
    * protect the face and head by wearing a wide-brimmed hat;
    * wear UV-absorbent sunglasses to protect the eyes;
    * perform most strenuous outdoor tasks during the morning, if possible;
    * wear loose-fitting, light weight, light-colored clothing;
    * use a buddy system and check on employees often; monitoring for heat-related symptoms increases the chances of avoiding illness;
    * avoid hot foods and heavy meals, since they add heat to the body; and
    * avoid caffeine and alcohol, due to their dehydrating properties.

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