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Considering the times, many people find themselves accepting work they may not have previously performed or done for many years. If you recently accepted a job in the construction industry, you may not be used to working outside for many hours at a time, which can take some time to get used to, especially in the heat.

Even here in Chicago, temperatures can reach a point where the heat can jeopardize your health. If the situation gets bad enough, you could end up hospitalized or worse. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has some recommendations for employers designed to help keep you safe from heat-related illnesses.

Who qualifies as a “new” construction worker?

It may surprise you to know that no less than 70% of heat-related deaths happen during a construction worker’s first week on the job. OSHA also says that nearly half of them happen on the first day.

When OSHA talks about a construction worker who is “new to working in warm environments,” it includes the following individuals:

  • Existing, temporary or new workers whose new duties include wearing additional clothing, increasing physical activity, or who are new to working in hot or warm environments
  • Employees working on days where the temperature differences are significantly warmer than previous days
  • Employees who work throughout the year, including through the transition from spring to summer
  • Employees returning to work after at least a week absence during high temperatures

If you fall into any of the above categories, your risk of suffering from a heat-related illness increases, especially without taking any precautions.

What precautions should your employer take?

When you start a new job, you may want to dive right in, but this may not be the best course of action in some cases. In order to help you avoid a nasty heat-related illness, you need to acclimatize first. OSHA recommends your employer take the following steps to help you get used to working in the heat:

  • Training regarding the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses
  • Expressing the importance of water and rest
  • Providing you more frequent rest breaks
  • Scheduling you for shorter shifts in the heat separated by rest breaks and increasing by about 20% each day until up to a normal work schedule
  • Using a buddy system and not allowing you to work alone
  • Monitoring you closely for signs of heat-related illnesses
  • Stopping you from working if you mention or exhibit signs or symptoms

If your employer fails to take these precautions, you could end up in the emergency room suffering from a heat-related illness. If this happens to you, it may be possible to obtain compensation to pay for your medical expenses, provide you with a portion of your income and other benefits depending on your situation.