Summer in Colorado is not just about blue skies and outdoor adventures; it also brings with it an increased risk of heat-related injuries that can affect workers across various industries. As the temperatures rise, the workers’ compensation attorneys in Denver want to remind employers and employees how to prevent heat stress and recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses to ensure a safe workplace.

Recognizing Heat-Related Injuries

Heat-related injuries occur when your body is unable to adequately cool itself and maintain a normal temperature. The main types of heat-related injuries include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, with heat stroke being the most severe and potentially life-threatening.

Heat Rash

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, typically occurs when sweat ducts become clogged and sweat can’t get to the surface of the skin. It manifests as red clusters of small blisters or pimples.

Heat Cramps

Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that usually happen in the abdomen, arms, or legs. These are often a result of strenuous activity and may be a sign of heat exhaustion.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is more severe, characterized by symptoms like heavy sweating, weakness, cold, pale and clammy skin, weak pulse, fainting, and vomiting. It’s essential to treat heat exhaustion promptly to prevent escalation to heat stroke.

Heat Stroke

Heat stroke is a true medical emergency, occurring when the body’s temperature rises above 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms include hot, red, dry, or moist skin, rapid and strong pulse, and possible unconsciousness. Immediate medical attention is critical.

Preventing Heat-Related Injuries

Prevention is the best form of defense against heat-related illnesses. Employers can take the following steps to protect their workers:

Educate Employees

It’s crucial to train workers on recognizing the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses, the importance of hydration, taking scheduled breaks, and how to respond to heat stress symptoms.

Promote Hydration

Encourage workers to drink plenty of water — about 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes. Avoid too much caffeine or sugar, as these can lead to dehydration.

Schedule Breaks

Schedule regular breaks, particularly for those who work outdoors or in hot environments. Providing cool, shaded areas for breaks can help workers recover from the heat.

Acclimate Workers

Gradually increase the workload for new workers or those returning after a long absence to allow their bodies to build a tolerance to the heat.

Monitor Weather Conditions

Keep an eye on the daily weather forecast and adjust work schedules and planning accordingly, perhaps even rescheduling strenuous tasks to cooler parts of the day.

Provide Proper Clothing

Encourage the use of lightweight, light-colored, and breathable clothing to help keep body temperatures down.

Implement A Buddy System

Having employees work in pairs ensures that someone is always available to look out for the other’s signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Colorado’s Response To Heat-Related Injuries

In Colorado, workers’ compensation covers heat-related illnesses if proven that they occurred as a direct result of workplace conditions. This underscores the need for employers to maintain safe working conditions and to accurately document any incidents.

It’s also worth noting that Colorado’s unique climate and altitude can exacerbate the effects of heat on workers, and this requires specialized consideration when creating workplace heat safety protocols.

What To Do If You Suffer A Heat-Related Injury

If you’re a worker in Colorado who suffers a heat-related injury:

  • Report the injury to your supervisor immediately.
  • Seek medical attention, especially if you experience the symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Follow the procedures laid out by your employer for workers’ compensation claims.
  • Document your symptoms, the weather conditions, your work conditions, and any medical care you received.
  • Consider consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney if you face challenges with your claim.

As we embrace summer in Colorado, we cannot ignore the heightened risks it brings to the workforce. Employers and employees share the responsibility of preventing heat-related injuries at work. By promoting awareness and preparedness, integrating preventive measures, and ensuring swift responses to heat-related symptoms, we can enjoy a productive—and safe—summer season. Remember, in the battle against the heat, knowledge and preparation are our best tools.