Working outdoors in hot weather can be life-threatening. Agricultural workers, forestry workers, firefighters and other outside workers face an elevated danger of heat-related illness. Bulky protective clothing, strenuous exertion and heavy equipment all contribute to the risk of physical harm or death. Employees can stay safer in the desert climate of Nevada by learning about the hazards of heat stroke.

What is heat stroke and why is it so lethal?

According to the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration, more than 400 Americans have died of heat stroke on the job during the past decade. This dangerous condition occurs when the body can no longer regulate its own temperature by the usual mechanisms of sweating and increased blood flow. Once heat stroke sets in, body temperatures may rise quickly to 107 degrees Fahrenheit or even higher, and organ damage may occur almost immediately. Coma and death can follow in just a few minutes.

How can workers recognize the warning signs of heat stroke?

Many outdoor workers have felt mild or moderate distress from the heat, with symptoms such as headaches, sunburn or heat rash. Mild heat illness is often no more than a nuisance, but it can develop quickly into a fatal case of heat stroke. Employees and supervisors must know how to recognize the common signs of heat stroke, including all of the following:

  • Hot and dry skin with no sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pulse faster than 120 beats per minute
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Seizures

If any of these signs occur, the victim must be transferred to a cool, shady place and given emergency medical treatment before death or permanent disability occurs.

Can employees decrease the risk of heat stroke?

Summer heat will always be hazardous for outdoor employees. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, one out of every 500 American workers is at risk of life-threatening heat stress. This figure is even higher in warm climates. Outdoor workers cannot completely eliminate the danger of heat stroke, but they can decrease the likelihood of injury or death by following a preventative program that includes gradual acclimatization to heat, access to shade, generous hydration, and appropriately structured work-rest cycles.

Even when supervisors and employees follow best practices for preventing heat stroke, they may still be at risk of severe harm from exposure to extreme temperatures. If you have suffered damage from heat-related illness, you have the right to Nevada workers’ compensation. Speak with an attorney today to find out more about the benefits available to you.