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UW research: Hot days can trigger more workplace accidents

Researchers at the UW School of Public Health said workers are more likely to get hurt on a hot day. (Photo: KOMO News)

SEATTLE – The soaring temperatures in this latest heat wave can be more than just uncomfortable. Researchers at the UW School of Public Health said workers are more likely to get hurt on a hot day.

The heat might feel great at first, but for those at work who can't escape the sun, it can also be dangerous.

The concern goes beyond heat exhaustion. Hot days can trigger a big jump in on-the-job injuries, according to Dr. June Spector, an associate professor at the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.

“We actually start seeing an increased risk of traumatic injuries,” Spector said, starting when temperatures pushed past the upper 70s into the 80s and beyond.

Heat, humidity and direct sunlight can compound the problems for people working outdoors.

“When you're light-headed, your balance might be a little bit off,” Spector said, “so it affects your brain and that can make it difficult to have good judgment."

Spector’s research showed that farm workers had 15 to16 percent more injuries on hot days. However, anyone working outside could be at risk from falls and other mishaps.

Spector said the best defense is to stay hydrated and take regular breaks – either indoors or in the shade if possible.

For more information on how to stay safe, check out the UW School of Public Health website.

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