In Birmingham, it’s common for summer temperatures to climb past 90 degrees. While we might love the summer heat and sunshine, high temperatures like these can be dangerous and even deadly for those who work in them. Construction workers, landscapers and farmers are just a few types of professions whose employees perform intense work outside.
Most fatal work injuries due to exposure to environmental heat occur between June and September. In 2015, there were 2,830 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring time off work due to environmental heat, and 37 deaths, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. Those who work in transportation and material moving, production and protective service are the most likely to be injured due to environmental heat.
If you or someone you love works outside, here are some examples of personal injuries that can occur because of excess heat, how workers’ compensation helps people who have experienced injuries at work, things employers need to do to keep employees who are working in heat safe, and when an employee who has been in a heat-related accident may want to pursue legal action.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heat stress can contribute to the following ailments that can result in serious injury or death:
- Heat stroke
- Heat exhaustion
- Heat cramps
- Heat rashes
- Sweaty palms
- Foggy safety glasses
Employees who are ages 65 years old and older are at a greater risk of heat stress. As well, those who have heart disease, are overweight, have high blood pressure or take medications that can be affected by heat face a greater risk.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness. Loss of consciousness, seizures, confusion and profuse sweating are all signs someone may be experiencing heat stroke.
When someone is seriously injured or dies because of excessive heat while on the job, workers’ compensation may be paid to the employee or the employee’s eligible dependents.
Workers’ compensation is insurance that provides employees who suffer on-the-job injuries or death to be compensated for medical bills, time missed off work and other costs. Regardless of who is to blame for the injury, workers’ compensation offers protection. This helps protect workers who might be involved with an accident, which the employer had nothing to do with causing.
After someone suffers a heat-related illness or injury, they should notify their employer, who should then file a workers’ compensation claim. A Birmingham workers’ compensation lawyer can also help with filing a claim.
Because workers’ compensation is essentially an insurance payment, some workers may not get the full benefits they are entitled to. It’s in the insurance company’s best interest to save itself the most money.
Additionally, victims or their families may be entitled to even more compensation when the employer played a direct part in causing the injury, by exhibiting negligent behaviors. Employers have a duty to maintain a safe working environment for their employees, especially in hot conditions.
How to Keep Employees Safe in Hot Conditions
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created a heat-related safety campaign called Water. Rest. Shade. Some of the guidelines OSHA mandates to keep employees protected include:
- Give workers plenty of rest, water and shade. Water breaks should be taken at least every 15 minutes.
- Provide new or returning workers with the opportunity to get acclimated to the heat, with more frequent breaks and lighter workloads.
- Train workers about heat-related dangers.
- Have a heat emergency procedure in place.
- Monitor workers for indications of heat illness.
- Provide protective clothing.
- Have cool areas where workers can rest.
One of the most critical components is training. This enables workers and supervisors to recognize heat danger signs themselves and get help more quickly.
Employers must listen to workers about warning signs and provide help, never pushing an employee beyond their limits. Creating unsafe conditions may make the employer liable for negligence in the case of a serious injury or death.
Get Help from an Attorney with a Heat-Related Injury
Even when you look out for all the warning signs and follow all heat-safe procedures at work, accidents can still happen. The result of excessive heat, such as dizziness, can lead to serious injuries when someone is using heavy machinery or falls into an unsafe area. Employers should do everything possible to protect employees.
If you or a loved one has experienced a serious personal injury due to excessive heat, and the victim feels the employer’s negligence contributed to the accident, please contact an attorney. It’s important to document the conditions of the work area, as well as gather evidence showing an unsafe working environment.
You and your loved ones deserve to stay safe at work. Take steps to stay cool this summer, and consult with a lawyer for a free consultation if you’ve experienced a heat-related injury.