As the heat index in New York flirts with the 100-degree mark, plenty of heat-related safety advice is being offered to elderly residents, parents, pet owners and tourists. But it’s another group of New Yorkers that John Tucker believes might be lost in the shuffle of safety advocates.
“New Yorkers who work outside face a grave risk of heat-related illness in these conditions,” Tucker said. “Employers should be monitoring their employees constantly and taking extra precautions to ensure they don’t overheat.”
Every year, thousands of workers suffer heat-related illness and dozens lose their lives because of excessive heat on the job, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Tucker is the director of claims management at Kaplan Lawyers PC, which says in a news release has frequently represented construction workers that have been hurt on the job. He said his experiences at the firm have raised his awareness of the dangers facing these workers and that the heat tends to affect construction workers disproportionately.
OSHA reports that more than 40 percent of fatal heat-related illnesses occur in construction. Workers of any age or experience level are susceptible to the effects of the heat, though workers who aren’t acclimated to high temperatures are especially at risk for these injuries.
“Workers who are exposed to the heat every day have a much higher tolerance,” Tucker said. “However, when a worker is fresh on the job, either because they are new or they’re simply resuming work after a day or two off, they can quickly become overheated and suffer serious illness.”
Tucker said that the burden of care is squarely on employers, supervisors and managers of outdoor workers.
“Workers have a job to do,” Tucker said. “They may not be the type to complain. In some case, they might even fear losing their job if they don’t keep pace with coworkers. Ultimately, supervisors should keep an eye on their workers, monitor temperatures and heat indexes and provide frequent breaks and water.”
Heat-related illnesses come in the form of heat strokes, exhaustion, cramps and rashes. Heat strokes and heat exhaustion are the two most serious, and they require immediate action.
Sufferers of heat exhaustion might become dizzy, nauseous, sweat profusely and have cold, moist skin. These workers should be rested in a cool, shaded area, given plenty of cool drinks and, if their condition doesn’t improve within an hour, given medical attention.
Heat stroke is accompanied by excessively high body temperatures, fainting, seizures and hot, red skin. If a worker is suffering a heat stroke, 911 should be called immediately, and the worker should be given shade, cool liquids and a cool place to rest.