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Prevent heat-related illnesses during pregnancy: New tip sheet from OSHA

Photo: MaxRiesgo/iStockphoto

Washington — OSHA has published a new resource on how best to protect pregnant workers from heat-related illnesses.

Pregnancy increases the risk of heatstroke or heat exhaustion on the job because the body must work harder to cool itself down, the agency says. Pregnant workers are also more likely to become dehydrated, “a primary contributor to heat-related illness.” Elevated body temperature has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Pregnant workers should pay close attention to symptoms that could lead to heatstroke or heat exhaustion, including headache or nausea, weakness/dizziness, heavy sweating or hot and dry skin, elevated body temperature, thirst, decreased urine output, and an increase in sporadic contractions or cramping.

OSHA recommends pregnant workers talk with a health care provider to determine if job restrictions or accommodations are necessary. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, in effect since June, requires employers with 15 or more employees to extend “reasonable accommodations” to pregnant workers. Those accommodations can include additional bathroom breaks, a water bottle at a workstation, light duty and assistance with manual labor.

Other recommendations: Drink cool water, take breaks in shady or cool areas, ease into hot work environments, monitor work intensity, dress for the heat, and eat water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.

Meanwhile, co-workers are encouraged to be on the lookout for symptoms such as slurred speech, seizures or fainting. Workers experiencing these symptoms should be cooled down immediately with ice or water. Call 911, stay with the person experiencing the symptoms and, if possible, move them to a shaded area.

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