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Beat the heat: Uncovering the dangers of heat illness, Part 1

Depending on the occupation, there may be certain professional hazards that simply come with the territory. Although this might be true, there is no reason to avoid taking all necessary precautions to identify and mitigate the risk of workplace illnesses or accidents.

Certain work-related risks are constant, which can make it easier to anticipate them and take steps to prevent issues. At the same time, however, there might be variability in the workplace. For instance, the seasons change and workers who spend a lot of time outdoors may need to recognize weather-related risks.

Even though Colorado may see snow in the winter, the summer can be defined by intense heat. This, unfortunately, is something workers may have to deal with.

A lack of precaution can lead to serious or fatal heat-related illnesses. Beyond heat rash and cramps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify more serious conditions that can develop, including:

  • Heat stroke: When a worker's body temperature soars to 106 degrees or higher in a short period of time, death can result.
  • Heat exhaustion: This is one of the more common conditions that results from dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
  • Heat syncope: The heat can cause workers to faint. In turn, this could result in a fall injury or other physical harm.

Interestingly enough, the CDC identifies non-illness risks that could come from slippery, sweaty hands or having safety glasses fog up in the heat. A worker could become injured if the climate is simply too hot to perform the job.

Even though the weather may be scorching, outdoor work may still need to be done. If this is the case, then employees and employers should take steps to address injury or illness. This will serve as the basis for our next post.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Heat Stress," accessed June 30, 2014

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