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Construction workers face heat stroke risk during the summer

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2024 | Workers' Compensation |

Virginia summers are characterized by high temperatures frequently exceeding 90 degrees and high humidity, which creates a challenging environment for construction workers. 

Workers and employers need to be aware of the risks that can lead to heat-related illnesses and symptoms and implement prevention strategies to protect construction workers during Virginia’s hottest months.

The dangers of heat stroke

Heat-related illnesses can vary in severity, ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions and involve different types of illnesses, such as:

  • Cramps
  • Rash
  • Exhaustion
  • Syncope
  • Edema
  • Stroke

Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat-related illness and occurs when the body’s temperature regulation fails, and body temperature rises to dangerous levels. Symptoms include:

1. Body temperature above 104 degrees

2. Altered mental state, such as confusion, agitation or unconsciousness

3. Lack of sweating

4. Rapid pulse

5. Throbbing headache

6. Nausea and vomiting

7. Seizures

Construction workers are at high risk for heat stroke due to their extended periods of working outdoors in direct sunlight. The physically demanding nature of their job elevates their temperature, especially when combined with high outside temperatures and humidity. Construction workers also need to drink enough water and electrolytes throughout the day to prevent dehydration. 

Employers could implement several strategies to protect their workers from heat stroke. One of the easiest ways is to ensure that clean, cool water is readily available at all times on the worksite and mandate employees’ breaks every few hours. Unfortunately, even in the face of some of the hottest summers in recorded history, most states have failed to enact laws requiring employers to provide outdoor workers with water breaks. 

Employers could also modify working hours so strenuous tasks occur during cooler parts of the day. In some areas, road construction takes place at night to protect workers from working during the hottest parts of the day.

Construction workers should also be provided with cooling vests and sunglasses to protect against sun exposure.

Anyone who has suffered a heat-related illness on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation. Working with someone who understands Virginia’s workers’ comp laws offers the best chance for a positive outcome.