Hot Summer Days Associated With Increase In Workplace Injuries And Accidents, Study Shows
You are more likely to be injured at work during 90- and 100-degree days. That’s bad news for Kern County workers, whose hot summer days seem never-ending.
A UCLA study examined over 11 million workers’ compensation claims in California, and showed that with increased heat comes an increased risk of health impacts on workers, no matter if employees are indoors or outside. On days with temperatures above 90 degrees, there was a 6% to 9% increase in injury risk versus days with temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s. And temperatures reached 100 or more, the risk of injuries increased by 10%-15%.
City workers are more at risk because asphalt, concrete, and steel absorb and re-emit much more heat than plants. When it comes to working outdoors, experts say heat exposure can have a range of physical impacts, noting an uptick in one injury directly tied to high temperatures, including kidney disease.
UCLA data also shows that cost of heat-related injuries at work could be between $750 million to $1.25 billion per year in California when you factor in healthcare costs, lost wages and productivity and disability claims.
There are no federal laws protecting workers from extreme heat, but some states have passed heat-related worker protection laws. However, last year the White House announcement a blueprint to address working conditions for laborers in extreme heat, which prioritizes establishing a first-ever federal heat standard — a widely accepted temperature or series of conditions under which employees would be required to stop working for their safety.
Heat is the leading weather-related killer in the United States. Heat has been tied to 783 deaths and nearly 70,000 injuries across the country between 1992 and 2016 according to federal data analyzed by Public Citizen, but for years the threat has been hard to measure because heat-related deaths are often misclassified or undercounted.
The White House is also pushing OSHA to increase workplace inspections and education on heat illness, according to reports.
This standard already exists in a select few states, including in California, which have spent years developing policies around how hot is too hot to work, and around loopholes that exist in certain industries such as agriculture and construction. California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health – also known as Cal/OSHA – has led the charge on developing stringent regulations to protect employees working outdoors in the heat. Overall, these regulations require California employers with outdoor workers to provide more than adequate water, shade, rest breaks and training. This rule applies when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Additional requirements go into effect when outdoor temperatures top 95 degrees. You can find all of the regulations under Title 8 Section 3395 – Heat Illness Prevention.
“Between standards by the state and federal department, and employers protecting their own employees, we hope Kern County’s workplaces become safe for all,” said Jim Yoro, senior partner and work injury attorney at Chain | Cohn | Clark.
Employers can follow these tips for their workers in the midst of heat waves:
- Allow employees to take frequent breaks during warm weather.
- Provide enough water on sight as dehydration affects a person’s physical abilities.
- Provide adequate shade for outdoor workers.
- Consider scheduling shifts to start earlier in the day, or split shifts between mornings and evenings to avoid peak heat.
There are four types of heat disorders to watch out for: sunburns, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. In general, signs of these ailments include extremely high body temperature (103 or higher), dizziness, nausea, confusion, and headache. If someone shows these signs, call 9-1-1 and begin cooling the individual.
Here’s how to identify and treat these illnesses specifically:
- Heat Cramps: Signs include muscle pains or spasms in the stomach, arms or legs. Take action by going to a cooler location, remove excess clothing, take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar, and get medical help if cramps last more than an hour.
- Heat Exhaustion: Signs include heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, fainting, nausea, and vomiting. Take action by going to an air-conditioned place and lying down, loosen or remove clothing, take a cool bath, take sips of cool sports drinks with salt and sugar, and get medical help if symptoms get worse or last more than an hour.
- Heat Stroke: Signs include extremely high body temperature (above 103 degrees) taken orally, red, hot and dry skin with no sweat, rapid strong pulse, dizziness, confusion or unconsciousness. Take action by calling 9-1-1 or getting the person to a hospital immediately. Cool down with whatever methods are available until medical help arrives.
If you or someone you know is injured in an accident at the fault of someone else, or injured on the job no matter whose fault it is, contact the attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Clark by calling (661) 323-4000, or fill out a free consultation form at chainlaw.com.