For many workers in labor-intensive industries, summertime is one of the busiest times of year, as outdoor work sites take advantage of clear, consistent weather. But with warmer temperatures also comes an increased risk for certain work-related injuries related to the sweltering heat.
At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, our knowledgeable workers’ compensation department wants workers and employers alike to be educated about all the potential health risks that can be present on a job site. Here are three of the most common workplace injuries that occur as a result of high-temperature conditions:
1. Muscle Injuries
When your entire body lacks the hydration it requires, a wide range of areas can be affected, including your muscles. When you’re performing rigorous physical activity on the job, your muscles naturally create friction, causing heat to build up inside your own body. This alone is enough to cause them to seize into a painful cramp -- but when summer weather becomes a factor, the effects can become compounded as the heat draws more and more water and vital electrolytes away from your body. Cramps themselves can hurt, but the wider implications of improperly hydrated muscles are even more dangerous. Muscles that are weakened and fatigued by dehydration are more susceptible to sprains, strains and tears, which can take you off the job site and send you straight to the orthopedist.
2. Heat Exhaustion
When your body is hot, its natural solution is to perspire, assuming that the evaporation of your sweat will have a cooling effect. Unfortunately, when conditions are very hot and you aren’t hydrating properly on the work site, your body’s own attempts to cool off can ultimately lead to heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when the rate at which you’re sweating is faster than the rate at which you’re replenishing the water and electrolytes present in your body, causing your entire system to become depleted. Symptoms can include dizziness, nausea, and muscle weakness, all of which are unpleasant -- but if you’re working on a construction site or in another precarious location, heat exhaustion can make you vulnerable to tripping, falling, or becoming crushed by equipment, resulting in even more serious injuries.
3. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke may be the most severe heat-related health concern there is -- it’s the next step up from heat exhaustion, and often occurs when initial signs of overheating and dehydration have been ignored for some time. Heat stroke occurs when your body becomes so hot that it can no longer regulate its temperature on its own. This condition can cause literal seizures, as well as loss of consciousness and a state of confusion that can become even more dangerous if you’re working with heavy, complex or mobile equipment.
All of the conditions listed here are covered by Workers’ Compensation in the state of Illinois, so whether you’re a worker or a business owner, it’s important to keep plenty of water and shade available on the work site at all times during the summer.
At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, our workers' compensation services are designed to help both workers and employers navigate the workers’ compensation process, and to help injured workers get back on the job as quickly, safely and confidently as possible!