Summer is a great time of year for everyone, but it does not come without its issues. It is a fact that workplace injuries more often occur during the summer months. Workers exposed to heat in a factory or the sun’s deadly rays outside are at risk to life-threatening illnesses. Whether it is the younger workers at their first job or seasoned veterans, every worker exposed to the elements must protect themselves and each other with proper guidance.
Summer is also a time where certain industries ramp up their production, particularly in construction or agricultural jobs. It is the time where highway or building construction increases activity or landscaping projects develop simply because the weather allows. However, the increased productivity outdoors does not come without its hazards. In fact, workers’ compensation claims and workplace injury rates also increase dramatically during the summer. There are several factors as to why; the following are different reasons why workplace injuries occur more often in the summer, what injuries are most common, and possible prevention practices.
Dehydration and Heat Exhaustion
The summer heat, especially in the northeastern part of the country, can be stifling. This leads to a myriad of problems. Prolonged exposure to rising temperatures can easily lead to dehydration. This is due to the body’s increased activity during summer months; the body sweats more rapidly when overheated. Because water and fluids are extremely important to the operation of the human body and its organs, when not replaced, the lack of water can lead to harmful consequences. Like dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke are also a concern for working outside. They even share the same symptoms and effects, including:
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid heartbeat or pulse
- Dizziness, faintness, or light-headedness
Untreated heat exhaustion can become fatal very quickly. A worker should be hydrating and find shade if possible. An ice pack or a cold compress can help lower symptoms but seek immediate medical attention if necessary. Workers must also pay attention to warning signs for themselves and their coworkers. Employers must provide shaded breaks and water and have prevention plans in place in case a worker exhibits any symptoms. Specific workers may be more susceptible to heat stress or injury, such as those over the age of 65 or workers who are overweight or have pre-existing conditions.
Outdoor workers are not the only ones who must protect themselves from the summer heat; indoor workers must do so as well. Workers surrounded by heavy machinery or those that work in factories, bakeries, or restaurants are also subjected to extreme temperatures and must follow safety guidelines.
Sunburn and Skin Disorders
The sun gives off an invisible form of radiation that, if subjected to prolonged exposure, can cause skin cancer or other skin problems. The human skin is not capable of protecting itself from ultraviolet (UV) rays as they destroy skin tissue and cells. Outdoor workers are very susceptible to the sun’s rays, but those on certain medications are as well, as certain drug side effects raise the risk of sunburn.
It is worth noting that the sun is most prominent between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., but that does not mean one should work outside without protection aside from those hours. UV rays are still a concern during cloudy days as well. Covering up as much as possible while in the sun is necessary, as well as applying sunscreen to exposed areas of the body. Unfortunately, sunburn is not immediately detectable, and symptoms may start hours after initial exposure. Be aware of the following symptoms:
- Swollen or red skin
- Skin feels hot to the touch
Blistering or skin peeling can occur days after exposure as well. There is no immediate cure for sunburn, but there are ways to help with pain and symptoms. Drinking water helps replace the body’s lost fluids and can help lower temperature. Aspirin or other pain relievers help with headaches and fevers, and lotions and cool baths can bring some comfort. Sunburn can also lead to extreme pain, dehydration, or high fever, and should be treated immediately by a medical professional.
Other Summer-Related Dangers
Summer also brings scenarios that increase the likelihood of injury. Air quality can be a concern when working outside in the heat, as well as increasing allergens and microscopic debris in the atmosphere. This could lead to asthma attacks or light headedness. Extreme weather is an issue that should also be considered. Severe thunderstorms can cause flooding or downed trees, which can make the commute to work or even the workplace itself hazardous. There is also the heightened possibility of animal attacks, such as snake bites or bee stings, when working outdoors. These can lead to severe allergic reactions if not treated right away with medical attention or an EpiPen.
Not only does extreme heat lead to dangerous illnesses as those listed above, but it can cause minor health issues that lead to major problems. If not properly hydrated or under heat stress, a worker can become dizzy and fall off a ladder or scaffolding. Heat could also cause equipment problems, such as malfunctioning machinery or even foggy goggles, leading to a workplace accident. Overheated or overused equipment can cause fires if not properly maintained or updated. Even when properly prepared for sun exposure, a worker must always be alert and cautious.
Proper Training and Planning
Those not accustomed to working under the sun or in the heat can easily fall victim to its many hazards. The summer months see a lot of the young and inexperienced joining the work force. Although this is a positive thing for many businesses, employers must provide sufficient training of the many hazards summer conditions cause in the workplace. Those accustomed to working in the heat can also help prepare an inexperienced worker for what they may face in hot conditions. To prevent heat-related illnesses, employers must implement safety plans that are in accordance to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) guidelines.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Advocate for Those Injured in the Workplace
If you were injured at work during the summer months, then contact the Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP right away. Our knowledgeable lawyers will protect your rights and obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve. Call us today at 856-761-3773 or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, and Pennsauken.