Keep Workers Safe in Summer Heat

Ky. Labor Cabinet urges employers to recognize the danger of heat stress, related illnesses

FRANKFORT, Ky. (July 26, 2021) — As summer temperatures begin to climb in the commonwealth, the Kentucky Labor Cabinet is reminding employers they have a responsibility to protect employees working in hot conditions.

Heat illnesses can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition. Whether working in hot indoor facilities or in direct sunlight, extreme heat can take a toll on workers who perform manual labor.

“Performing physically exhausting work in dangerously hot conditions without proper breaks, water and shade can result in serious illness and even death,” Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link said. “The Labor Cabinet reminds employers during the summer months that they are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards, including extreme heat conditions, pursuant to worker safety laws.

Employers who expose workers to hot working conditions should establish a heat illness prevention program and closely monitor all employees to keep them safe.

Kim Perry, commissioner of the cabinet’s Department of Workplace Standards, said, “Employers should take time to learn how to recognize the signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.” Commissioner Perry noted, “A worker suffering from a heat stroke may exhibit abnormal behavior or in some cases may seem confused.” She further stated, “Workers may have slurred speech, become unconscious or suffer a seizure. A high a body temperature greater than 104 degrees is also common,” she said.

Finally, Commissioner Perry noted, “Heat stroke is a medical emergency that could be deadly, and if anyone witnesses someone suffering from signs of a heat stroke they should call 911 immediately, cool the worker with ice or cold water and stay with the worker until help arrives.”

Heat exhaustion is also a serious concern. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion may show signs of fatigue, weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness. Other symptoms include headache, extreme thirst, decreased urine output, nausea and/or vomiting, heavy sweating and hot, dry skin. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion may also exhibit an elevated body temperature greater than 100.4 degrees.

Victims of heat exhaustion should move to a cooler area, remove unnecessary clothing and increase water consumption. Treatment with ice and fans should be used if available.

“It is important to note that people with heat illnesses may not exhibit all of those signs and symptoms,” Commissioner Perry said.

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends employers:

  • 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 how to prevent heat illnesses.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

More information about what employers can do to keep workers safe can be found on OSHA’s website.

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