While heat-related workplace incidents can happen any time of year, workers’ compensation cases related to the heat spike in the summer. What are heat-related illnesses and injuries? What causes bodies to overheat? What are some common causes of heat-related health problems? Can you get workers’ compensation for heatstroke and other heat-related injuries and illnesses?
Here is everything you need to know about summer heat and workers’ compensation.
What Are Heat-Related Illnesses and Injuries?
Heat can cause many illnesses and injuries ranging from a mild sunburn to life-threatening heatstroke or dehydration. Some of the most common heat-related problems include:
Heatstroke is caused by a person’s body overheating, usually due to physical exertion or prolonged exposure to high temperatures. Heatstroke is the most severe form of heat injury and requires emergency medical treatment. It can damage the heart, brain, muscles, and kidneys.
Dehydration happens when you lose or use more water than you take in, resulting in your body not having enough fluids to carry out its normal functions. While you can treat mild to moderate dehydration by drinking water or sports drinks, severe dehydration requires immediate medical treatment.
Heat exhaustion is a condition with symptoms that include a fast pulse and heavy sweating. Common causes of heat exhaustion include strenuous physical activity in a hot, humid environment. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke if not treated.
Heat cramps are involuntary painful muscle spasms that can occur during intense exercise in hot environments. Heat cramps most commonly affect the arms, calves, back, and abdominal wall, although they can affect any muscles. While heat cramps are not dangerous, they can serve as a potential warning sign before heat exhaustion, dehydration, or heatstroke.
Sunburn is painful red skin that feels hot to the touch and shows up after prolonged sun exposure. Severe sunburns can include symptoms like:
- Fluid-filled blisters that may break
Severe sunburns should be seen by a doctor. Get immediate medical treatment if your sunburn comes with fainting, confusion, dehydration, or a fever over 103°.
Heat rash occurs when blocked sweat ducts trap perspiration under your skin. A heat rash may be intensely itchy or prickly, and symptoms range from superficial blisters to deep, red lumps. While heat rash usually clears up on its own, see a doctor if the rash appears to be getting worse or you notice signs of infection like:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Draining pus
- Increased swelling
Why Do Our Bodies Overheat?
As warm-blooded animals, humans are designed to regulate our body temperature by sweating when we get too hot and shivering when we get too cold. Those only work up to a certain point, however. Sometimes, the body cannot keep up with the heat and can no longer regulate its temperature.
This is especially true when we have not had a chance to get used to the heat. According to a study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), nearly half of all cases of heat-related workplace incidents occurred on a person’s first day on the job and 80% occurred within the first 4 days. Slowly acclimating to high heat can help prevent heat-related health problems.
Common Causes of Heat-Related Illness on the Job
During the summer, these are some common causes of heat-related illnesses on the job:
- Strenuous physical work
- Working outdoors
- Prolonged exposure to sunshine
- Working near hot machinery
- Protective clothing that covers most of the skin without breathing
- Working near hot lights or fire
- Indoor work without proper cooling or ventilation
Are There Regulations About Heat Exposure in the Workplace?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970, employers are required to provide employees with a place of employment ”free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”
That includes heat-related workplace incidents. Your employer should provide water, shade, training, acclimation, compensated cool down periods, or any other means to prevent heat-related health problems.
Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for Heatstroke?
If you suffered heatstroke or another heat-related illness or injury while you were working, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Do you have questions about if or how you can get workers’ compensation? If so, please contact Work Injury Rights attorneys. We will be happy to provide a free consultation to discuss your case.