The Accident: A California landscape crewmember is cutting grass at a residential site at 5 p.m. He begins to feel sick and asks another employee to finish cutting the lawn while he takes a break. When the coworker finishes cutting the lawn, he sees the crewmember is ill and disoriented, so he calls 911. The crewmember is taken to the hospital, and he dies several hours later from a heat-related illness.
The Bottom Line: When employees are working in a hot environment, their body must get rid of excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. If the body can’t get rid of excess heat, it will store it. When this happens, their core temperature rises, and the heart rate increases.
If the body continues to store heat, the person will lose concentration and have difficulty focusing on tasks. They may also become irritable, sick or lose the desire to drink. After that, the worker may faint and even die if they are not cooled down. Here are ways to help prevent heat-related sicknesses.
- Supervisors should be trained on how to prevent, recognize and treat heat illness.
- Monitor environmental conditions, and develop a work/rest schedule to accommodate high heat and humidity.
- Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty. Avoid caffeine.
- Rest in the shade to cool down.
- Wear a hat and light-colored clothing.
- Learn the signs of heat illness, and keep an eye on fellow workers. Don’t leave someone alone if they show symptoms.
- New workers or ones not used to being in the heat should go through an acclimation program. Begin with 50 percent of the normal workload in the hot environment and build up to 100 percent during a five-day period.