Millions of workers in California and around the country are exposed to dangerous heat levels each year according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Exposure to soaring temperatures can cause medical issues ranging from cramps and exhaustion to potentially fatal heat strokes, and they can usually be prevented if employers and workers take a few basic precautions and carefully monitor weather and workplace conditions. Heat-related medical problems occur most frequently during the summer months, but they can be a workplace danger for indoor workers even in the winter.
Workers who perform strenuous tasks face the highest risks in hot conditions, but these dangers can be virtually eliminated if they take regular rest breaks, keep themselves hydrated and wear breathable clothing that does not trap body heat. Employers can do their part by keeping track of temperatures, relieving at-risk workers on a regular basis and ensuring that sufficient quantities of water are kept on hand. Supervisors should receive information about the signs of heat stress and be given the authority to step in when they notice them.
Heat-related illnesses and injuries tend to surge each year when temperatures soar for the first time. This is because the human body needs time to adjust to warmer weather. According to OSHA, between 50% and 70% of heat-related workplace fatalities occur during the first few days that workers are exposed to dangerously hot environments.
Workers who are left unable to earn a paycheck because of heat stroke or some other heat-related medical condition are usually eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, but their claims are sometimes challenged by their employers. Attorneys with experience in this area could assist workers who have been denied benefits by scrutinizing their claims and explaining their legal options. Attorneys could help workers to gather medical evidence to support their claims or file workers’ compensation appeals.