Oilfield workers in Oklahoma are particularly vulnerable to suffering heat stroke during the hottest months of the year. The risk for heat stroke is higher under direct sun and hot conditions which are commonly found at these oil field operations, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).
Although heat stroke is one of the most severe consequences of exposure to sun and heat in the field, workers may also experience lesser issues such as rashes and cramps. As the heat index rises about 90 degrees, the risk of incurring heat stroke increases. Other factors that may add to the risk of heat stroke among oil field workers include:
- Working close to hot objects or heat sources
- Engaging in strenuous physical labor
- No air movement in the work setting
- Not having the body adjusted to hotter temperatures
- Elevated humidity
- Wearing heavy, protected clothing that may also be non-breathable
High external temperatures and humidity in the field can lead to heat stress, raising the internal temperature of the body and resulting in dehydration and at times death. Such excessive heat hinders the body’s ability to lower its temperature by means of sweating and other natural cooling methods. Individuals who experience heat stress may find it difficult to concentrate, which itself can increase the possibility of oil field accidents and injuries.
Heat exhaustion can progress slowly over a period of time or quickly. Some of the symptoms of this dangerous condition include:
- Heavy or excessive sweating
- Weak pulse
- Muscle cramps
- Low blood pressure
Advice on preventing heatstroke in the field
As temperatures rise in the oilfields, workers must take certain precautions to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke, including:
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. This will help your body sweat and remain at a normal temperature.
- Put on sunscreen and preferably reapply every couple of hours. Sunburn can limit the ability of your skin to cool down naturally.
- During the hottest times of the day, which is often during mid to late afternoon, reduce the intensity of your work activity as much as possible and take it easy. If that’s not possible, drink lots of fluids and take frequent rest breaks in a cool location.
- Wear light and loose clothing so your body can cool properly. Heavy and tight clothes prevent the body from cooling down properly.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggests that employers should place someone over a heat protection program in which workers may be trained to recognize and react to the signs of heat exhaustion and stroke. The program can also help train leaders in the field to monitor workers with respect their activities and the symptoms of these conditions. Employers should have effective plans in place to modify worker’s activities and schedules as needed and to also deal with emergencies. Continual monitoring of temperatures and worker acclimation to the outdoor environment are also essential to reduce the risk of heat stroke.
At Cunningham & Mears, our seasoned Oklahoma City oilfield injury lawyers are ready to advocate for your right to obtain just compensation if you have been injured on the job. To set up a free, initial case review, call our law office today at 405.212.9234 or send us a request through our contact form.