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June 26 , 2006

L&I says take precautions if you work outdoors in the heat

TUMWATER — With excessively hot temperatures in the state this week, employers and workers should take precautions to prevent heat stress for anyone working outdoors, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) said today.

L&I said workers should drink plenty of water, even when not thirsty, take regular breaks, wear light clothing and adjust to the pace of the work, among other things. A worker who begins feeling ill should stop work immediately and take steps to cool down.

“We’ve seen the temperature jump significantly in just the past two days — from the mid-70s to 90 and even 100 degrees in some parts of the state — so workers may not be adapted to the hot weather,” said Steve Cant, L&I’s assistant director for safety and health. “Heat stress is a serious health issue and can quickly escalate to heat stroke, which can cause death. Everyone who works outdoors in hot weather needs to take precautions.”

To protect yourself and co-workers from heat stress while working outside in hot weather:

  • Drink plenty of water, even when not thirsty. Sip small amounts often.
  • Try to do the heaviest work during the cooler parts of the day.
  • Adjusting to the heat takes time; start slower and work up to your normal pace.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, light-colored breathable clothing such as cotton, and a hat.
  • Take regular breaks in the shade.
  • Avoid alcohol or drinks with caffeine before or during work.
  • Watch co-workers for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • If you start feeling symptoms (lightheaded, headache, nausea, dizziness, etc.), stop what you are doing immediately and take steps to cool down. Tell a supervisor.

If you think someone is suffering heat stroke, get medical help immediately by calling 911. Some of the signs of heat stroke include no sweating; red or flushed, hot dry skin; rapid pulse; headache; blurred vision; dizziness or fainting; difficulty breathing; pinpoint pupils; unusual behavior; convulsions; and collapse.

L&I adopted an emergency rule this year that requires employers with outdoor workers to have a safety plan in place to protect workers from heat-related illness during hot weather. Additionally, other rules require employers to provide drinking water and first-aid training.

Training materials to help workers cope with heat are available by calling 1-800-574-2829 or at the L&I web site at www.LNI.wa.gov/Safety/Topics/AtoZ/HeatStress.

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For more information: Elaine Fischer at 360-902-5413 or nele235@lni.wa.gov, or visit the L&I News and Media Center at www.lni.wa.gov/News.

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