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Heat stress at work raises risks of illness and injury

Many New Jersey residents work in hot environments that place stress on their bodies. Construction workers, farmers, bakery employees and firefighters need to monitor themselves for symptoms and take breaks to prevent their bodies from overheating. Heat stress can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and in some cases it can be fatal.

Hot conditions also trigger problems like sweaty hands, fogged safety glasses and dizziness that could cause a worker to have an accident. Overheated people sometimes experience reduced brain function that impedes reasoning abilities, which could also lead to a workplace accident.

In 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health updated its guidance for protecting workers in hot conditions. Supervisors should train everyone to recognize heat stress symptoms and report them quickly. Employers can protect workers from the heat by scheduling frequent breaks and providing air conditioned recovery stations or at least a shaded location. They need to advise workers to remain hydrated by drinking small amounts of water at regular intervals instead of large quantities all at once. Ideally, workers will be paired with work buddies so that they can monitor each other. Otherwise, supervisors should check the status of employees throughout the day to catch and treat heat stress as soon as possible.

When a worker collapses on the job, medical treatment could be necessary. An injury or illness arising at work should entitle the victim to workers' compensation benefits insurance. A person who needs information about these benefits could talk to an attorney. A legal representative might enable a worker to access benefits when an employer wants to discourage the filing of a claim.

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