When the temperature hits 100 degrees, most of us can escape to our frigid, air-conditioned offices and cubicles to wait out the heat wave.
I even have co-workers with heaters under their desk because our office gets so cold.
But there are many occupations that don’t have the luxury of air-conditioning, in which workers must keep on toiling even when summer days reach their hottest.
Construction workers, landscapers and other outdoor workers are the most obvious. But indoor jobs, such as those at bakeries and Laundromats, can also pose health risks, according to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office.
The state agency, a unit of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, recently released tips on how companies can keep employees safe.
Working in sweltering conditions without the proper precautions can lead to fainting, rashes, cramps and, in the worst cases, heat exhaustion or stroke, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Heat stroke can shut down bodily functions. Sweating stops, skin can turn red or mottled, and mental confusion and delirium can set in, the health authorities say. If not treated immediately it can lead to death.
There have already been at least 6 heat-related deaths in Maryland so far this year, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. T
he risk is even greater in Maryland, where high humidity can make the temperatures seem even hotter. Humidity reduces sweat evaporation, making it harder for the body to cool off.
Equipment such as ovens and clothes dryers that give off heat can also make temperatures soar even more, putting some indoor workers at risk.
How each worker responds to heat can also vary depending on varying factors from age, physical health, weight and mental condition. For instance, the elderly and obese may be more prone to heat-related illnesses.
The state and federal occupational and safety offices offer these tips to companies to help prevent heat- related illnesses and accidents.
Have workers drink a cup of cool water or other fluid every 20 minutes.
Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
Allow workers to take frequent breaks in cooler areas.
Acclimatize workers to the level of heat they will be working, gradually exposing them to the conditions over a few weeks.
Encourage workers to live healthy lifestyles with a nutritional diet.
Provide cooling fans in hot areas. Schedule heavy work for cooler parts of the day.
Call the state with further questions about heat stress in the workplace, 1-888-257-MOSH.