Steps to take to identify and prevent heat-related illness at work

June 7, 2017 | 8:53 am


The following article written by Chain | Cohn | Stiles lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo appeared in the Kern Business Journal

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Summer is here, and with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Kern County, employers and employees must take precautions against the summer heat.

Heat-related illnesses can cause serious injury and even death, with local agricultural and construction industries are particularly affected when temperatures rise.

Under California’s Heat Illness Prevention Act, growers and contractors are required to provide water, shade and rest breaks to workers. In addition, supervisors are required to receive training on the signs of heat illness, and fines for not adhering to these rules could reach $25,000.

In addition, employers are required to establish, implement, and maintain an effective Injury and Illness Prevention Program. To successfully tailor procedures to your work activities, evaluate and consider the special conditions at your work site. An employer should consider the size of the crew, the length of the work-shift, the ambient temperature, and the presence of personal protective equipment or additional sources of heat.

If you as a worker begin to suffer any of the signs or symptoms associated with heatstroke, you should immediately notify supervisors so that remedial steps can be taken. Do not delay in reporting your situation, as heat-related medical conditions can be life-threatening if left unattended. If first aid is not sufficient to treat symptoms or complaints, and medical attention is required, the filing of a workers’ compensation claim may be necessary.

Here are some other notes to keep in mind regarding heat-related illnesses:

 

Heat exhaustion versus heatstroke

Heat exhaustion occurs when the body is depleted of water and salt; in other words, the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include confusion, dark-colored urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, pale skin, and rapid heartbeat. If not addressed, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke, the most serious of heat-related illnesses.

During a heatstroke, a person’s core body temperature reaches 105 degrees or higher, which directly affects the nervous system. Symptoms of heatstroke include fainting, throbbing headache, dizziness or light-headedness, lack of sweating, hot or dry skin, muscle weakness or cramps, nausea and vomiting, rapid heartbeat, confusion, disorientation, staggering, seizures, and unconsciousness.

 

Prevention

There are several ways to avoid a heat-related emergency. Do not wait until you are thirsty to drink fluids because thirst is not a good indicator of fluid loss. Drink plenty of water when you know you will be in a hot environment. Make sure to wear loose, light, and lightweight clothing when exposed to heat to encourage heat release. Avoid hot, heavy meals during the work day. A heavy meal will divert blood flow to aid with digestion. Make sure to take frequent breaks to rest under shade, and hydrate.

In the event of a heat-related emergency, call 9-1-1. Move the victim to a cool shaded area, and loosen and remove any heavy clothing. If the person is still conscious, have them drink cool water, and try cooling the person down by fanning them. If ice is available, place ice packs are on the person’s head, armpits and groin. Heat-related illnesses are 100 percent preventable.

 

James Yoro is senior partner at Chain | Cohn | Stiles, where he manages the law firm’s workers’ compensation practice, and has nearly 40 years of experience in his field. Beatriz Trejo is an associate attorney focusing on work injuries at Chain | Cohn | Stiles.

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*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Working outside? How to stay safe in the summer heat, and identify heat illness

July 27, 2016 | 6:00 am


It’s summer time in Kern County and the temperatures aren’t going down anytime soon.

Bakersfield-based law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles wants to remind everyone enjoying the outdoors to take proper precautions to beat the heat, especially those working in the outdoors. Each year, thousands of workers become sick from occupational heat exposure, and some even die. In 2014 alone, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job, according to U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

These illnesses and deaths are preventable. Please take note of these safety measures for staying safe in the summer heat:

 

Protect Yourself

Sunlight contains ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which causes premature aging of the skin, wrinkles, cataracts, and skin cancer. Here’s how to block those harmful rays while working:

  • Dress appropriately for the heat: Wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover as much skin as possible in order to prevent sunburn.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Wear UV-absorbent sunglasses.
  • Limit exposure: UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

 

Hydrate 

It is important to drink plenty of water. The National Institute of Medicine recommends men drink approximately 3 liters of water, and women to drink 2 liters of water per day.

If working in the outdoor heat, drink a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if you are not thirsty. During prolonged sweating lasting several hours, drink sports drinks containing balanced electrolytes. Avoid alcohol and drinks with high caffeine or sugar.

 

Rest

Rest in the shade to cool down, and keep an eye on fellow workers. Employers should ensure and encourage workers to take appropriate rest breaks to cool down and hydrate.

Shorten work periods and increase rest periods as temperature, humidity, and sunshine increase, when there is no air movement, if protective clothing or equipment is worn, or for heavier work.

 

Learn the Signs

It’s important to know and be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heat-related illness. There are different types of heat-related illnesses, ranging from those that cause temporary discomfort to the generally fatal condition known as heat stroke.

  • Heat Stroke: A serious, life-threatening condition that occurs when the body loses its ability to control its temperature. In heat stroke, a person develops a fever that rapidly rises to dangerous levels within minutes. A person with heat stroke usually has a body temperature above 104 degrees, but the temperature may rise even higher. Other symptoms and signs of heat stroke may include confusion, combativeness, bizarre behavior, feeling faint, staggering, strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, and lack of sweating. Delirium or coma can also result from heat stroke.
  • Heat exhaustion: A warning that the body is getting too hot. Those most prone to heat exhaustion include elderly people, people with high blood pressure, and people working or exercising in a hot environment. A person with heat exhaustion may be thirsty, giddy, weak, uncoordinated, nauseous, and sweating profusely. As with heat syncope and heat cramps, the body temperature is usually normal in heat exhaustion. The heart rate (pulse rate) is normal or elevated. The skin is usually cold and clammy.
  • Heat cramps: A person who has been exercising or participating in other types of strenuous activity in the heat may develop painful muscle spasms in the arms, legs, or abdomen referred to as heat cramps. The body temperature is usually normal, and the skin will feel moist and cool, but sweaty.
  • Heat syncope: Someone who experiences heat syncope (fainting) will experience the sudden onset of dizziness or fainting after exposure to high temperatures, particularly after exercising in the heat. As with heat cramps, the skin is pale and sweaty but remains cool. The pulse may be weakened, and the heart rate is usually rapid. Body temperature is normal.
  • Dehydration: There are three stages of dehydration. Symptoms may include dry mouth, dry skin, and headache. Severe dehydration symptoms include extreme thirst, irritability and confusion.
  • Sunburn: Sunburns can cause the skin to become red and swollen. Sunburns can be a risk factor for skin cancer and sun damage. Heat rash, on the other hand, is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating during hot, humid weather. It looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.

If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a heat-related illness, do the following:

  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Seek shelter from the sun.
  • Apply water on the person.
  • Apply ice on the person’s neck or areas where large blood vessels are near the surface.
  • Remove any heavy clothing.

 

Employer Responsibilities 

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

— By Evelyn Andrade for Chain | Cohn | Stiles

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If you or someone you know if injured at work, please call the workers’ compensation attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles at (661) 323-4000, or visit the website chainlaw.com. Workers’ compensation lawyers James Yoro and Beatriz Trejo can help.

*NOTICE: Making a false or fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in a prison or a fine of up to $150,000 or double the values of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.

Remember Kaitlyn’s Law when out in the Bakersfield heat

July 17, 2014 | 9:54 am


The San Joaquin Valley heat continues to beat down on the streets of Bakersfield and Kern County. It’s important to be as safe as possible when outside, and remember Kaitlyn’s Law if you’re driving with young ones in your vehicle.

Kaitlyn’s Law was adopted in 2002 following the death of 6-month-old Kaitlyn Russell. She was left unattended in 100 degree heat by her babysitter for several hours and was later found dead. Kaitlyn’s Law makes it illegal for children ages 6 years or younger to be left unattended in a vehicle without supervision of a person who is 12 years or older when:

  • There are conditions that present a significant risk to the child’s health or safety;
  • And when the vehicle’s engine is running and/or the vehicle’s key is in the ignition.

As temperatures in Bakersfield continue to remain in triple digits and high double digits, the risk of vehicular hyperthermia, or heat stroke remains – especially when young children are left unattended in vehicles. Regardless of how or why a child is left behind, the end result can be devastating, the Bakersfield Police Department states in a recently released advisory.

Studies have shown that within 20 minutes, air temperature in a small car exposed to the sun on a 95-degree day exceeded 122 degrees inside of the vehicle. Within 40 minutes the temperature soared to 150° degrees. Leaving a window slightly opened or cracked did little to prevent the temperature from rising to a level dangerous for children, vulnerable adults and pets, according to Bakersfield Police Department. No matter what the weather is like, or length of time you need to be away from your vehicle, leaving a child unattended in a vehicle is extremely risky, and can result in tragedy.

Recently, a father in North Carolina made national headlines and his video went viral when he tested the car heat. After seeing a story about yet another toddler death after the baby was left alone in a hot car, the father got into his car on a 90-degree day, rolled up the windows and switched off the air-conditioner. You can watch the video here.

Leaving children in cars also poses many dangers besides hyperthermia. Dangers to children left unattended in cars include carbon monoxide poisoning, runaway vehicles, carjacking, child abduction, trunk entrapment and emotional trauma, according to safety officials.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SAFE KIDS, Bakersfield Police Department and the Bakersfield personal injury attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles recommend following these safety rules to avoid heat-related injuries or other vehicle dangers:

  • Never leave a child alone in or around a vehicle.
  • Check to make sure all children leave the vehicle when you reach your destination, particularly when loading and unloading. Don’t overlook sleeping infants.
  • Place a reminder of your child’s presence where you’ll be sure to see it before leaving the vehicle (diaper bag next to your briefcase and baby blanket under your lunch, for example)
  • Never leave a child in a vehicle with the motor running or the key in the ignition.
  • Keep car keys away from children at all times.
  • Always lock your car, even at home, and remind your friends and neighbors to do the same.
  • Teach children not to play in, on or around cars.
  • Keep rear fold-down seats closed to help prevent children from getting into the trunk from inside the car.
  • Dial 9-1-1 immediately if you see young children left unattended in vehicles.
  • Heat in vehicles is also a risk to seniors and pets.

For more summer safety tips, view these previous safety posts on bloggingforjustice.com, or visit our safety advisories at ChainLaw.com.

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UPDATE

Following this post last week, Amber Rollins, the director of “Kids and Cars” — a nonprofit public safety awareness website for child safety around automobiles — wrote Chain | Cohn | Stiles to make readers aware of a campaign to prevent child heatstroke deaths in vehicles.

KidsAndCars.org has launched a “We the People” petition drive on the White House petition website to urge the White House to authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to:

  • Provide funding for research and development of innovative technology to detect a child in the rear seat when a driver leaves the vehicle and a child is left alone.
  • Identify, evaluate and test new technology to accelerate implementation of the most feasible and effective solutions.
  • Require installation of technology in all vehicles and child safety seats to prevent children from being left alone in vehicles.

The goal of the campaign is to get 100,000 signatures on the petition by Aug. 12. Go to http://wh.gov/lL8nX to sign the petition.