5 tips for people who work in the California heat

Heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses is a real threat for many people who work in California.

The California sun is hot, creating conditions that are more than just uncomfortable for many workers. Unfortunately, the heat can lead to serious situations. In fact, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 18 people died in 2014 due to heat-related illnesses, and approximately 2,630 suffered from these conditions.

By law, employers are required to protect workers from situations in which they would be exposed to extreme heat. By invoking the following tips, employees can remain safe while on the job:

1. Know the risk

There are several groups of people who may be more likely to develop a heat-related illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that people who are physically or mentally ill are at an increased risk, as are those who are older than 65. These individuals may need special attention to avoid an on-the-job illness.

2. Drink the right fluids

It should go without saying that drinking water can prevent the conditions associated with heat. However, many people need the reminder. A good rule of thumb is that workers exposed to hot weather should drink water all day long, even if they do not feel thirsty. Further, there are some liquids that can be dehydrating, such as sugary drinks. Very cold drinks could cause stomach cramps, so chilled or even room-temperature water would be preferable.

3. Get in the shade

Employers should provide workers with some type of shade or area where they are able to take a break from the sun. People who are new to working in such conditions or those who have been away from the heat for a long amount of time may need more frequent breaks. California law even demands that employers provide these "cool down recovery periods."

4. Wear light clothing

The best type of clothing to wear while in heat is anything that is loose-fitting and light-colored. When possible, cotton is preferred, but any material that allows the skin to breathe will work. Workers should speak with a supervisor to determine proper attire, as there may be hazards in addition to heat that clothing may have to address.

5. Know the warning signs

Lastly, one of the best ways to beat heat-related illness is to know what the symptoms are. Someone on the verge of heat exhaustion may exhibit the following:

  • Sweaty skin
  • Weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps

Heat stroke may look a little different. The person's skin may appear red and very dry, and he or she may be acting confused. Fainting or even convulsions could occur. At the first sign of trouble, a worker should get help.

Someone who suffers a heat-related illness due to employment may be able to collect workers' compensation benefits. People who have questions about that process should contact an attorney in California.