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.
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: What Injured Workers Should Know
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.
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.
If you work outdoors, like on construction sites, for a nature preserve or for a park, you may be at risk for experiencing an insect sting or bite at some point. A 10-year study released in 2014 found 10.1 million people visited emergency care departments for noncanine bite and sting injuries during a decade, with 67.5 percent of injuries from insects and 20.8 percent from arachnids. WorkCare reports outdoor workers account for the majority of incidents.
Workers who are bit or stung at work should alert their manager and get medical treatment. In some cases, workers’ compensation can cover an injury. In others, an employer’s negligence may have contributed to the bite or sting. Here’s how to stay protected, what your workers’ compensation rights are, and when you might want to hire a Birmingham personal injury attorney or workers’ compensation lawyer after a bite or sting injury.
Always be alert while working. Watch where you place your hands and feet.
Being aware of your surroundings and wearing protective clothing and accessories are two of the most important ways you can stay protected. If you notice dangerous conditions, such as a beehive or spider web, notify your manager before getting to work.
If you are allergic to any insects, like bees, you should also alert your manager before working. If you feel like the work conditions you are asked to work in are dangerous, you may ask your employer not to work in them. Employers are bound by federal and state laws to provide safe working environments. Employees have the right to report dangerous conditions to OSHA.
If there is not imminent danger, but there is a safety hazard present, the employee should file a written complain to the employer for the hazard to be corrected and can file a complaint with OSHA.
How Workers’ Compensation for Bites or Stings Works
If you take the proper precautions and are bit or stung at work, you should take certain steps to ensure you are properly protected.
Be Aware of Severe Bites
Warning signs that a bite is severe include:
Loss of breath
If you experience any of these, ask for medical treatment immediately. If you are unsure of the severity, you can request emergency treatment anyway. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Use the First Aid Kit
Every safe working environment will have a stocked first aid kit available with treatments for bites and stings. Healthline recommends:
Remove a stinger by gently scraping the skin with a flat-edged object. Avoid tweezers.
Wash the bite with soap and water.
Use gauze to apply pressure to stop any bleeding.
Cover the wound with a bandage.
Place an ice pack on an area.
Take over-the-counter pain medication.
Use calamine lotion or a paste of baking soda and water to alleviate pain and itching.
Again, there is no substitute for professional emergency services. Your employer should call them if you request them or are incapable of responding.
Document the Injury
Workers’ compensation protects workers from on-the-job injuries and provides monetary compensation if an employee faces medical bills or has to miss time off work due to an injury. After you receive medical treatment, even if emergency services are not called, you should work with your employer to document the injury. Any injury that receives treatment beyond first aid is required to be reported to OSHA by the employer with a form like this.
However, even if you don’t receive medical attention beyond first aid, you should still ask your employer to document the injury and give you a copy of the document for your protection. If the bite or sting develops into something worse and requires medical attention later, that initial documentation can protect you.
After a bite or sting, monitor its progress and your pain levels. You can take photos of the injury and keep a journal. You should also note the work conditions and any factors that may have contributed to the injury.
Reasons to Work with a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you believe the bite or sting injury you experienced was due to an employer’s negligence, you should contact a Birmingham workers’ compensation attorney. You may not receive all the compensation you deserve from your employer, or you may receive none at all. Pittman, Dutton & Hellums offers free consultations. Some signs of negligence include:
You voiced concerns about unsafe conditions, but they were ignored.
You were instructed to work in an unsafe environment.
How your employer handled your injury was inappropriate. For example, your employer failed to contact emergency services.
Your health and safety at work deserve to be protected. After experiencing any severe workplace injury, we can help you determine your next best course of action, with a free no-obligation consultation.
If you work outside, sun exposure puts you at risk for skin cancer. Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, which can negatively affect the functioning of other body parts.
In the United States, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other forms of cancer combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. One in five Americans will get skin cancer by the age of 70. The diagnosis of nonmelanoma skin cancers has increased 77 percent between 1994 and 2014.
For those who work outside, working under the sun and its ultraviolet (UV) rays poses a threat. How much responsibility do employers have to keep workers safe from skin cancer? Here’s a look at skin factor risk factors and how to stay protected at work.
How Skin Cancer Develops
Most skin cancer is a result of UV radiation from sunlight or from lights in tanning beds. Because skin cancer can develop on body parts that are not exposed to UV light, as well, there may be other factors that increase skin cancer risk, such as toxic substance exposure.
There are varying types of skin cancer. Nonmelanoma skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, occurs in cells in the skin other than melanocytes, which are the pigment-producing cells. This type of cancer is not likely to spread, is usually easily removed, and is simple to cure when detected early.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, causing the most fatalities. It occurs in the melanocytes, which produce melanin, or skin color. Melanoma typically begins as a mole and may spread deep into skin, affecting lymphatic vessels.
Symptoms of skin cancer include:
Pearly or waxy bumps
Flesh-colored or brown-colored scar-like lesions
Firm, red nodules
Flat lesions with a scaly, crusted surface
Moles that change in color, size or feel, or that bleed
Dark lesions on extremities or on mucous membranes
The earlier any type of cancer is detected by watching out for these warning signs, the quicker it can be treated and potentially removed.
Skin Cancer Risks at Work
Any exposure to the sun can put you in danger. Prolonged work hours outside require extra care. According to the National Cancer Institute, workers who work outside should protect themselves against skin cancer by:
Avoiding sun exposure as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Wearing long sleeves, long pants and an all-encompassing hat
Using broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15
Wearing sunglasses that filter UV
It is in employers’ best interests to keep workers safe. Developing skin cancer can mean time missed off work, lack of energy or sickness before detection, and in some states, workers’ compensation. It is also an employer’s legal responsibility to keep employees safe, per what is outlined in the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. Employers should protect employees who work in the sun from skin cancer risks by:
Limiting work hours between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as much as possible
Providing workers with breaks in which to reapply sunscreen, at least every couple hours
Adjusting sunscreen breaks according to the environment, since elements such as snow, altitude and glass may increase UV exposure
Employers can go above and beyond in helping workers stay safe from skin cancer risks by providing free sunscreen, uniforms that offer ample body coverage, and UV-blocking sunglasses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that employers teach outdoor employees about UV radiation risks and the signs of overexposure.
Can an Employee Sue from Getting Skin Cancer at Work?
Each state has varying workers’ compensation laws in place to protect workers who are harmed on the job. In cases where a disease develops over time and is not a one-time accident, like skin cancer, obtaining workers’ compensation will vary from state to state. In cases where workers’ compensation does not cover skin cancer, suing for negligence is a possibility.
Some examples that might strengthen a case for negligence after developing skin cancer and working outside may include:
An employer denies outdoor workers breaks
An employer provides little shading
Workers who express the need to apply or reapply sunscreen are denied by their employer
Neglecting basis employee rights and making employees work in unsafe environments may cause life-threatening illnesses like skin cancer. Consulting with a lawyer in cases like these may benefit victims.
Talking with a Birmingham workers’ compensation attorney is the best first step if you develop skin cancer and work an outside job. Your health deserves to be protected at work, and if you believe an employer has been negligent and contributed to your cancer, you may be entitled to compensation. Call (866) 515-8880 or contact Pittman, Dutton & Hellums online for a free consultation.
Workplace falls from height are the leading cause of private sector worker death in the construction industry, accounting for nearly 39 percent of construction fatalities in 2016. They’re also among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports worker injuries and illnesses are down drastically from nearly 11 percent of workers in 1972 to nearly 3 percent of workers in 2016, there are still dangerous risks anyone working from a substantial height faces.
Workplace falls from height include incidents like the following:
Falling off ladders
Plummeting from scaffolding
Being struck by an object from above, then losing balance and falling off another object
Cascading off a roof or vehicle
Falling into a hole in the floor or a wall
Any fall from 6 feet or more can cause serious injury, but even falls covering fewer distances can cause broken bones, cuts, head injuries and more. Here’s a look at what to be aware of concerning workplace falls from height, what to do if you experience this type of situation, and when negligence may be to blame for your fall.
Causes of Workplace Falls from Height
Any time you’re working high off the ground, it’s vital to be aware of the risks you incur. One of the top preventable causes of workplace falls from height is a lack of training. If you ever feel uncomfortable with the amount of training you have before working from a significant height, voice your concerns to an employer. You should never be forced to do work you are uncomfortable with.
As you’re working above the ground, keep these other risk factors in mind:
Inadequate edge protection: If you are not properly secured to a harness that can protect you in a fall, and there is no edge protection, you could slip off the edge and plunge.
Poor securing of flooring or objects: If what you are walking on is not stable and secure, you might fall or slip off the flooring. Objects above you that are not properly secured and that may fall on your could also cause you to fall.
Vehicle movement: If you are scaling a vehicle, and the vehicle starts moving without warning, you could fall off it. A moving vehicle could also cause you to collide with another object and fall off.
Weather: A 2016 study of falls from height found weather conditions are one of the most common factors in falls. Inclement weather like windy or rainy conditions can exacerbate risk factors.
Protect yourself in situations where a fall is a risk factor by wearing slip-resistant shoes, helmet equipment and protective clothing. Always make sure any equipment you use has been tested first to ensure it’s in proper working condition.
What to Do If You Fall at Work
If you experience a fall at work, call for help, and don’t move because you may be injured. Get medical attention immediately. Try to take a mental note of what you were doing before the fall, what the conditions were like, and what happened immediately after.
You will want to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer. The insurance firm of your employer will handle compensation for medical bills and money lost from time missed off work.
Sometimes, the compensation you are offered is much lower than you deserve, or a workers’ compensation claim may be turned down. When an employer’s negligence is to blame, getting help from a workers’ compensation attorney may be wise. OSHA’s outline of fall protection states that employers must install fall protection at elevations at 4 feet or higher depending on the work environment. Employers should also guard holes, provide guardrails and toe-boards around elevated flooring, provide safety harnesses, and more depending on the work situation.
If you suspect adequate protection was not given to you while working, and you sustained a serious injury after a fall, contact an attorney. The statute of limitations prevents workers from filing a lawsuit after a certain amount of time, so it is best to get a free consultation as soon as possible from an attorney. Workers’ compensation claims don’t necessarily account for pain and suffering, or psychological damage incurred from a fall. An attorney can help you get the full compensation you deserve.
Need Help for a Serious Fall from Height Injury?
If you have experienced a serious injury from a fall, the team at Pittman, Dutton & Hellums may be able to help. We specialize in workers’ compensation issues and offer a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
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