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In this era of coronavirus, medical experts say those who can’t resist the urge to meet up with friends should do so outside and from a safe distance. Outdoors may be a safety zone of sorts against contracting coronavirus, but the summer months can be fraught with risk for those who work outside and must spend full days toiling in the heat.

In Kentucky, where daytime temperatures routinely hit the mid- or high 80s and high humidity can make it feel much hotter, the risk of heat-related illness for workers is significant. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says although illness from exposure to heat is preventable, thousands of workers become sick each year from heat exposure. Some cases are fatal.

A closer look at heat-related illnesses

Workers who spend their shift in the heat must find ways to release excess body heat to prevent their body temperature from getting dangerously high. Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Workers suffering from heat stroke may experience dizziness, confusion, slurred speech or unconsciousness.

A worker who suffers heat stroke should be placed in the shade or a cool environment and apply cool, wet towels to the skin.  A heat stroke sufferer should consume water or sports fluids and remove tight clothing or protective layers of work clothes.

An employer’s responsibility

OSHA emphasizes that heat-related illness on the job is preventable, especially when employers are committed to providing effective controls. In addition to encouraging workers exposed to the summer heat to drink plenty of fluids during the workday, employers can allow for shorter shifts or additional breaks, and train supervisors to be on the lookout for symptoms of heat-related illness.

Heat-related illness can require hospitalization. Under Kentucky workers’ compensation laws, employees can recover the full cost of medical treatment for a work-related illness. They may also recover a percentage of their salary if they miss more than seven consecutive days of work.

Workers’ compensation laws are complex, and employers are not always as helpful as workers would like. It is wise to consult with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you navigate the process and recover the maximum amount of benefits possible.