Occupational heat exposure presents a real risk to workers, especially those unaccustomed to working in high temperature environments. Thousands of workers become sick from exposure to high temperatures every year. High temperature workplaces can include both those that are indoor and those that are outdoor. Heat-related illness can be caused by a variety of conditions including high air temperatures; high humidity; radiant heat sources; strenuous physical activity; as well as direct physical contact with hot objects. Heat stress injuries range from everything from heat cramps to heat stroke which is a true medical emergency that can be fatal.
Those working outside in direct sunlight and hot weather may experience high temperatures and high humidity while laboring. The groups at risk include:
Workers required to wear bulky, non-breathable protective clothing in hot environments are at risk of overheating. Heat can also be a factor in slip and fall accidents by causing sweaty palms and fogged safety glasses as well as dizziness. Burns can also occur in workplaces where hot steam and hot surfaces are present.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness so that the affected worker receives proper medical care. The following describes the most common heat stress injuries and their symptoms.
Heat stress injuries do not have to happen. There are many steps employers can take to reduce a worker’s risk of heat stress injuries. Additionally, employers should provide training for workers and supervisors about occupational heat exposure and heat illness and have an emergency plan in place should a worker show the symptoms of heat-related illness. Medical care should be readily available to workers who succumb to heat exposure.
Indoor heat stress injuries can be prevented through the use of air conditioners in equipment cabs and break rooms, cooling fans and other general ventilation sources, insulation of hot surfaces, and by venting hot and humid air at the points where it is produced. Workers should be provided with protective equipment if necessary such as insulated clothing, reflective clothing, or infrared reflecting face shields. Other options are special garments that circulate cool compressed air or whose pockets can be filled with dry ice to control the worker’s body temperature.
Outdoor workers should have an acclimatization plan provided by the employer to minimize the risk of heat stress injury. This means workers gradually increase the amount of time spent in hot weather conditions over seven to fourteen days. New workers should spend no more than 20 percent of their time exposed to heat on the first day with a 20 percent increase of time on each subsequent day.
Workers should have access to water and frequent scheduled breaks in either shaded or air-conditioned areas. Each worker should have a buddy that checks regularly for symptoms of heat-related illness and makes sure they are taking breaks and drinking fluids.
If you have suffered a heat stress injury while on the job you may be eligible for benefits to cover your medical costs and a portion of your lost wages. Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation law covers most seasonal, part-time, and full-time employees. Contact an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer who can take care of your legal needs so that you can focus on your recovery. A knowledgeable attorney will make sure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to for as long as you need them to fully recover from your injury.
If you have been exposed to extreme heat conditions on the job and suffer from a heat-related illness or injury you may be entitled to compensation. At Gross & Kenny, LLP, our skilled Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers provide experienced legal representation and will fight for the maximum compensation allowable in your case. Call us at 267-589-0090 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.