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Record temps raise risk of worker heat stroke

The summer of 2018 has been a scorcher, with North Carolina experiencing temperatures in the high 90s. Working outdoors in such conditions can be very dangerous. In fact, a new study says that workers can suffer fatal heat stroke when the outside temperature is only in the high 80s.

The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, investigated 25 cases of heat stroke involving outdoor workers. Fourteen of the cases resulted in death. Of the fatal cases, six occurred when the heat index was less than 91 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat index combines the day's temperature and humidity to estimate the way it will make the human body feel.

Heat stroke occurs when the body reaches an internal temperature of between 106 and 108 F. Symptoms of the condition include confusion, disorientation and the loss of the ability to sweat. A victim's skin may appear red and feel hot and dry when touched. To prevent heat stroke, the authors of the study recommend that employers designate someone to monitor heat conditions on worksites and train supervisors to recognize the signs of heat stroke. They also encourage workers to drink plenty of water and take frequent breaks in cool areas, such as the shade or an air-conditioned space. When possible, work schedules should be changed to avoid the hottest times of the day.

Individuals who suffer on-the-job heat stroke may be forced to miss work for an extended period of time. In some cases, it may be advisable for an ill worker to file for workers' compensation benefits, which provide wage-replacement payments while he or she is unable to work. An attorney might be able to help prepare a worker's claim and push to obtain the maximum allowable settlement.

Source: Medical Xpress, "As temperatures soar, study warns of fatal heat stroke at work," E.J. Mundell, July 5, 2018

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