While many Minnesota workers spend the warmer months indoors, those whose jobs involve outdoor activities can face increased risks during the summer. As heat increases, many people attempt to work without adjusting for the changing environment. However, heat and lightning cause numerous injuries and some deaths each year, making awareness an important focus for both employers and employees. Both OSHA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are working to remind these parties of appropriate safety precautions through educational campaigns.
Workplace illnesses related to the heat can include heat illness and heat stroke, which can be deadly. In fact, more than 2,630 individuals across the country suffered heat illness related to their work activities in 2014, and 18 people perished from heat stroke that year. OSHA notes that those most vulnerable to these types of problems are athletes, those employed in outdoor professions, emergency response personnel and elderly employees. Additionally, those who have only been on the job for a few days face greater risks of heat-related injuries on the job because of the need to acclimate. Water, shade, and frequent breaks should be provided to such workers.
Lightning can be another serious summer hazard for outdoor workers, which makes it important for employers to review safety protocol for lightning storms. It is crucial for workers to be trained to observe the signs of such a storm and to understand when and where to take shelter. If an individual cannot find a fully enclosed structure fitted with plumbing and electric wiring, the next best spot is inside a metal vehicle with a hard top.
An individual who suffers a weather-related injury or illness during work should seek medical care promptly to ensure that treatment is received before the matter becomes deadly. Additionally, it is helpful to know that most employers are required to have workers’ compensation coverage to ensure that treatment and other costs related to such injuries are handled.