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Heat Wave Hits San Diego - A Look at Occupational Heat Exposure

The McClellan Law Firm

It's unusual for April, but we are looking at three days of temperatures in the 90s in the inland communities and in the 80s at the coast here in the San Diego area. This is about 10 to 20 degrees above average for this region, with a record high of 93 degrees for today's date in 1989. Temperatures should cool down again starting on Thursday, but for the next several days workers should take caution while working outdoors.

Working in the heat can place a person at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It can make performing physical tasks more difficult, and workers should increase their water intake and take breaks as needed to cool down. Workers aged 65 years or older are at a higher risk of suffering injury from working in the heat, as are overweight workers and those on certain medications. Construction workers, farmers, firefighters, bakery workers, factory workers and miners are some of the workers most at risk of suffering heat-related illnesses or injuries.

Employers have an obligation to train workers so they know what heat exhaustion and heat stroke are and how to prevent these conditions. They should also take reasonable measures to provide safer and cooler work environments for employees, such as additional breaks for outdoor workers or indoor cooling systems (fans, etc.) for indoor workers.

Work Injuries Caused by Extreme Heat

Temperatures in the 90s may not seem sufficient to cause heat stroke, a potentially deadly condition, but workers in construction or other physically demanding fields that must work outdoors in the sun may still be at risk. Heat stroke occurs when the body is exposed to high temperatures to such an extent that it can no longer regulate its own temperature. The body temperature will rise rapidly, causing such symptoms as profuse sweating, hot and dry skin, hallucinations, chills, throbbing headache, slurred speech, dizziness, confusion and high body temperature. Untreated, heat stroke can lead to permanent disability or death.

Upon noticing symptoms of heat stroke in yourself or another worker, you should immediately call 911 and work to lower the worker's body temperature by moving him or her to a cooler area, fanning the worker's body, and spraying, sponging or showering the worker and his or her clothing with water.

Heat exhaustion is another medical condition that can be caused by exposure to high temperatures. With heat exhaustion, the body is responding to an excessive loss of water and salt, usually due to extensive sweating. Symptoms may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, pale or flushed skin, and fast, shallow breathing. Resting in a cooler area, drinking water and taking a cool shower can relieve the symptoms of heat exhaustion.

If you work outdoors in the San Diego area and have experienced heat exhaustion or heat stroke, or if you have suffered any type of work-related injury, you may find helpful guidance in a legal professional at The McClellan Law Firm. We represent injured construction workers, industrial workers, maritime workers and commercial drivers in occupational injury and illness claims and lawsuits, helping them seek and recover the money that can help them rebuild their lives.