Heat illness hazards in the gas and oil industry

Working on an oil rig comes with many dangers, including the threat of inclement weather. For oil-rig workers, the threat of heat-related illnesses are serious and very real. Weather conditions at most drill sites include excessive heat from the sun and high levels of humidity. Additionally, there may be times when your work requires you to enter confined spaces which can further exacerbate the risk of developing heat-related illnesses. 

Your employer should train employees for how to recognize the symptoms of heat stress and provide directions on how to respond if an employee experiences any of the initial telltale signs.

The stages of heat stress

Heat stress can develop slowly over hours of exposure or, in extreme heat, within minutes. Recognizing warning signs that you or a co-worker may be in trouble, can minimize the chance of a condition becoming life-threatening. The following warning signs require prompt attention and treatment: 

  • Cramping: Your body sweats to regulate its temperature, but excessive sweating can deplete the body of moisture and salt, causing painful heat cramps in your arm and leg muscles. Drink plenty of water and replace lost electrolytes by drinking sports drinks every 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Heat exhaustion: If heat cramps continue for more than one hour, significant water loss could cause heat exhaustion to develop. Symptoms, include dizziness, nausea, headache, excessive sweating, thirst and an elevated body temperature. You should seek immediate treatment.
  • Heat stroke: If your body is not able to cool down, your life may be at risk. This means that your body is no longer able to regulate your core temperature, which can continue rising and reach a critical level.

Prevention

Employers of oilfield workers must ensure that employees have easy access to water and shade or cooling areas and frequent rest periods. Supervisors and workers must watch each other by using the buddy system, and they must take prompt action at the first signs of heat illness. An emergency plan must be in place, and all employees must be familiar with the steps to take. Drill sites are often in remote areas, and the administering of basic first aid might save a life.

Workers' compensation

If you were not fortunate enough to receive prompt treatment for heat stress at your job on the oil rig, you are likely facing mounting medical bills along with lost wages if you landed in the hospital. You need not despair because legal resources are available to assist with the navigation of a workers' compensation insurance benefits claim for coverage of these expenses.

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