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In the Real World

Tragedy in a Field

An employee was on his third day of work hand picking crops in an agricultural field in northern California. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and employees were working in intense, direct sunlight. Employees had water, but there was no shade for their bodies to cool.

Employees and supervisors had no training on heat illness prevention and did not know the signs and symptoms. There was no system in place to monitor employees and account for their whereabouts. The employee was staggering and speaking incoherently as he moved out of the work area. No one noticed that the employee was ill, acting strangely, and had wandered off. The employee was found lying in the field the next day, dead from heatstroke.

Lack of Training Cost a Life

An employee was working in very hot weather on his first day as part of a road construction crew. Employees and supervisors had no training on heat illness prevention and did not know the signs and symptoms. The employee started sweating profusely and later showed signs of heat cramps. He was asked to rest but was not provided any medical treatment.

The next day, the employee returned to work and as the day went on he was observed acting incoherently. Finally, in the afternoon paramedics were called, and the employee was taken to the hospital. The employee died later in the hospital after he had worked less than two days.

Lack of Acclimatization Caused Heat Illness

A laborer suffered heatstroke on his first day working on a construction site with temperatures of 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% humidity. Before he had worked in a much cooler coastal area and had just moved to the hot desert. He was not acclimatized to working in such high temperatures.

Starting at 5:30 a.m. he was outside a new building, carrying debris and lumber to clean up the site. Around noon he was found unconscious by coworkers. The foreman called the ambulance immediately, and the laborer was transported to the hospital 4 1/2 miles away. With medical treatment he survived the heatstroke. Employees were trained on heat illness prevention and first aid but not on the importance of acclimatization.

Training and Quick Action Saved a Life

A young employee was working on a rooftop in southern California. The employee began to feel weak and coworkers noticed he was acting confused. He was quickly removed from the roof and sprayed down with water. Employees immediately called 911. The ambulance arrived within 6 minutes, and the victim was in the emergency room within 25 minutes. His internal body temperature was 106.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and his heart rate was 122. He had significant damage to the kidneys, liver, and muscles. The hospital diagnosis was heatstroke. The victim survived.

Employees were taught to recognize the signs and symptoms of heatstroke, and the employer had emergency response procedures in place. Because of these measures employees responded appropriately, allowing the victim to be transferred to the hospital and receive prompt medical care. These actions saved the victim's life.