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Houston Leads State In Workers Suffering From Heat Related Illnesses

The 100 degree temperatures are taking their toll on Houston workers. Federal officials are warning local employers that the heat is making workers sick.

Construction worker takes break
Worker takes a break at a classroom building under construction on the University of Houston campus

 

Workers erecting a mid-rise near downtown Houston are taking a break under a tree where they kept a huge cooler of water. And maybe that’s why, when asked if anyone had been sickened by the heat, they shake their heads no. These workers were doing what experts recommend: water, rest, shade.

But other workers in Houston are getting sick because of the heat, according to the Texas office of the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Adminstration.

“Just in the past week we’ve received four reports of workers hospitalized because of heat related illnesses,” said Jim Lawrence with OSHA’s office in southeast Houston.

“There was a mechanic in an auto repair shop, a painter, a pipefitter in a petrochemical plant and a warehouse worker,” Lawrence told News 88.7.

All the heat-stricken workers were in the Houston area which OSHA says sets the city apart as being hardest hit so far in Texas. The only other region with reported hospitalizations was Louisiana with three workers falling ill a week.

The last worst heat wave was in 2011 when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees nearly every day in August. Emergency rooms saw hundreds of people suffering from heat illnesses.

Dr. Sam Prater, a UTHealth emergency medicine physician and medical director of Emergency Services at Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center, said it’s not just workers they see: it’s all kinds of people from school-age athletes starting practice sessions to weekend boaters who hydrate with beer instead of water.

“If you start to feel light-headed or even feel like you’re having balance problems, that’s definitely a warning sign. As an observer you may notice someone walking around, stumbling around,” said Dr. Prater.

To raise awareness among workers, OSHA has an app you can download to your phone. It calculates your heat risk and tells you what preventive steps to take.

 

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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