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  • Outdoor Workers at Risk for Heat-Related Injuries

    According to a recent report released by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), the risk of sustaining a heat-related injury or illness in the workplace grows from 5% to 6% when temperatures begin to creep above 90 degrees. High temperatures create unique occupational dangers, such as the increased chance of experiencing a traumatic injury (like falling off aHeat related injury ladder or an elevated surface) or falling victim to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and more. As the temperatures continue to grow, it is critical for employers to take the necessary steps to safeguard workers and reduce known hazards.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency tasked with ensuring that workers have access to safe and healthy work conditions. The agency has standards in place for a variety of work-related hazards, and extreme heat is one of them. In 2022, OSHA implemented the National Emphasis Program, or NEP. Per OSHA, the NEP’s primary directive is to identify, reduce, and/or eliminate worker exposures to occupational heat-related illnesses and injuries in general industry, construction, maritime, and agriculture.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that heat exposure can result in heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Heat also creates other potential dangers for workers, like sweaty palms, fogged up safety glasses, and dizziness. Heat can also cause serious burns if workers come into contact with an industrial heat source or steam. According to the CDC, certain workers face a greater risk for heat exhaustion than others. Those at high risk are people 65 or older, overweight, who have high blood pressure or heart disease, or take medications that can be affected by the heat.

    Signs and Symptoms of Heat-Related Illnesses

    While some heat-related illnesses are usually pretty mild, like heat rash and heat cramps, others can be very serious or sometimes, deadly. Here are some signs and symptoms of heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke that employers and workers should watch out for:

    • Heat rash is a skin irritation that results from excessive sweating. People may experience clusters of pimples or small blisters that usually appear on the neck, chest, groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases
    • Heat cramps manifest as muscle cramps, pain or spasms in the abdomen, arms, and/or legs. While drinking water and having a snack or drink that replenishes electrolytes and carbohydrates is usually sufficient for a worker experiencing heat cramps, you should seek medical attention if the individual has heart problems, is on a low sodium diet, and/or has cramps that do not go away within an hour
    • Heat exhaustion happens when a person’s body loses too much water and salt, typically due to excessive sweating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, irritability, thirst, heavy sweating, elevated body temperature, and decreased urine output. The CDC recommends treating a worker with heat exhaustion by taking them to a clinic or emergency room to be evaluated by a medical professional. If you have to wait for help to arrive, remove the worker from the hot area and give them liquids to drink, remove unnecessary clothing (like shoes and socks), cool the worker down with cold compresses or have the worker wash their head, face and neck with cool water, and encourage taking frequent sips of chilled water
    • Heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness that a person can experience. It happens when the body is no longer able to regulate its own temperature, which makes it impossible to cool down. When a person has heat stroke, their body temperature can reach 106 degrees (or even higher) in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. If it is not treated in a timely manner, heat stroke can lead to permanent disability or death. Symptoms of heat stroke include loss of consciousness (coma), confusion, altered mental status and/or slurred speech, hot, dry skin or profuse sweating, seizures, and very high body temperatures. If you believe someone is experiencing heat stroke, you should call 9-1-1 right away, stay with the worker until emergency services arrive on scene, move the person to a shaded, cool area and remove outer clothing, cool the worker down by means of cold water or an ice bath, if possible, wetting their skin, placing cold, wet cloths on their skin, and soaking their clothing in cool water

    Employers are Responsible for Protecting Workers

    OSHA requires employers to implement certain standards and practice to protect workers from known hazards like heat exposure. To reduce heat-related illnesses and injuries, the agency recommends:

    • Be prepared. Plan ahead to protect workers from heat-related hazards that they will encounter at work
    • Understand heat hazards and know the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses
    • Have a schedule for workers to take water breaks and rest in shady areas
    • Provide competent training to workers on heat exposure risks, preventive actions, and first aid
    • Share written materials on heat exposure and safety

    Employers and workers can also access resources like the CDC’s Heat and Health Tracker at:  plan ahead for extreme heat at work.

    Contacting a Lawyer for Your Heat-Related Injury or Illness

    If you experienced a heat-related illness or injury at work, you may have a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to injured workers. Because filing a workers’ compensation claim can be time-consuming and confusing, having a skilled workers’ compensation attorney on your side makes a big difference. At Galfand Berger, our attorneys have decades of experience representing injured workers. If you would like to learn more, contact a representative online now who can help.

    Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP, Representing Injured Victims Since 1947

    If you have questions about filing a claim for injuries you sustained, contact the Philadelphia workers’ compensation attorneys at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or fill out our online form for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.

    1-800-222-USWA (8792)