Despite modern safety equipment and procedures, some circumstances on the Texas oil fields remain life-threatening. Your employer might not properly provide adequate safety training to prepare workers for the imminent dangers that come along with the change of seasons. Heat exhaustion is a deadly threat and preparedness is crucial.

Excessive heat can impair judgment, basic common sense and coordination — all of which are essential if you want to remain safe on the oil field. One small error could claim your life, so if your employer fails to provide training about the hazards of heat exposure, you might have to take your own precautions.

What is heat illness?

Your body typically cools itself by sweating, and if it cannot do that quickly enough, heat illness may occur. You might develop a headache and feel dizzy, light headed and weak, and you might feel irritable and confused. You might even feel nauseous and throw up, while your skin could become pale and clammy. You could pass out, and without immediate treatment, heat illness may become heat stroke, which is a deadly condition.

Precautions you can take

Learning about the telltale signs and the symptoms of heat illness can help you to stay safe. The following precautions might help you to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Use the first two weeks of summer to build up a tolerance to heat by short periods of activity and increasing it every day.
  • Allow your body to cool down by taking frequent short breaks in shaded areas.
  • Avoid wearing clothes made of acrylic fabrics. Loose fitting clothing made of natural fibers, like cotton, is breathable and ideal for working in hot conditions.
  • Drink a cup of cool water at 15 to 20-minute intervals to keep hydrated.
  • Things to avoid before you start a work shift in hot environments include heavy meals, alcohol and caffeine.
  • Never work alone — using the buddy system in which employees work in pairs to keep a lookout for signs of heat illness in each other will also ensure that there is one to call for help in an emergency.

What to do if your buddy shows signs of heat illness

If you take the following steps at the first signs of heat illness, you may prevent severe consequences:

  • Take the coworker to a shady, cool area, and stay with him or her.
  • The best position to rest is on his or her back with legs slightly raised, but if the person feels nauseous, positioning him or her on the side is better.
  • Provide cool water to drink if there is no vomiting present.
  • Loosen clothing and remove any heavy pieces and try to cool the skin with a wet cloth, a spray mist of cold water or by fanning him or her. If available, ice packs placed in the groin area and under the armpits could help.
  • Call emergency services if there is no improvement within minutes. Sure signs of heat stroke include no sweating, seizures or fits, and loss of consciousness.

Workers’ compensation

If you were a victim of a heat-related illness, you might have had to take time off work, and coping with lost wages along with medical expenses could be detrimental to your budget. Fortunately, the Texas workers’ compensation system aims to provide financial assistance to victims of workplace illness or injuries. You can file a benefits claim, and resources are available to help with the ensuing administrative and legal processes.