Everyone copes with the summer heat in their own way. Lighter clothes, electric fans, air-conditioning, or a relaxing swim can keep you cool and comfortable. We’ve already touched on the dangers of heatstroke in a previous post on this blog. But did you know that rising temperatures can pose a serious threat in the workplace? A recent study from the University of California at Los Angeles observed significant increases to industrial injury rates in cases of extreme heat. Malloy Law is here to explain how workplace injuries rise in extreme heat, and offer tips on preventing these unfortunate outcomes.
This study conducted by faculty attached to the Luskin School of Public Affairs compared data from 11 million worker’s compensation claims between 2001 and 2018 to weather reports from the relevant dates. According to the UCLA study, heatstroke is far from the only threat to workers in extreme heat. While heat-induced illnesses undoubtedly rise in proportion to temperature and humidity, this only captures part of the picture. Extreme heat effects the body and brain’s chemistry. It can impact:
This poses a major threat to manual laborers, who work around dangerous construction or industrial machinery. An overheated worker may forget to clear their hand from being caught in machinery, or not have the situational awareness to avoid a passing truck when they’d otherwise navigate these hazards. The risk applies indoors as well as out. Non-air conditioned manufacturing and industrial facilities are also subject to these risks. Even sweltering kitchens may see a higher rate of cuts and burns when temperatures rise.
In summation; UCLA’s researchers found that the risk of serious injury for workers subjected to extreme heat rises between 6% and 9% on days where the temperature is above 90 degrees. This increase is relative to days with more reasonable high temperatures of 50 or 60 degrees. Even more startling is the increase when the temperature tops 100 degrees, which can be between 10% and 15%. The researchers estimate that excessive heat accounts for about 20,000 extra injuries per year. That’s 360,000 injuries over the 18 year run of the study.
With the continuing trends of climate change, it stands to reason that heat will only become more of a factor in managing workplace injury risk. Worse yet, these risks will disproportionately fall on low-income laborers. The researchers found that the lowest-paid 20 percent of workers suffer five times the amount of heat related injuries.
So it stands to reason that in order to maintain a healthy workforce, employers should equip their businesses with climate control systems and take steps to keep their employees hydrated and shielded from the heat. However, this is simply not feasible in some industries. Outdoor construction sites, agricultural concerns, and cavernous industrial facilities will always encounter problems with keeping their employees shielded from the heat and the risks it imposes. However, there are always steps that can be taken to limit risk and reduce harm.
Employers and managers should ensure that their personnel are hydrated at all times and allot increased break time on especially hot days. Ideally break time should be taken in shaded and a climate controlled room or trailer. Wetted cloth worn around or over the head can also help cool vital parts of the body. In addition; a responsible manager will account for the differences between his individual employees and intervene when one appears to be struggling or over-exerting themselves.
Even if everyone behaves responsibly and acts in the best interests of their co-workers, accidents and heatstroke are inevitable. More information on identifying and treating heatstroke can be found here.
Like all industrial injury, heat induced injuries are often serious. Hardworking, innocent people may be staring down long rehabilitation periods, medical bills, lost wages, worker’s compensation concerns, and emotional distress. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a heat-induced industrial accident, contact Malloy Law today for a free consultation. Our experienced and diverse legal team will assess your case free of charge and pursue maximum damages on your behalf. Our firm stresses individual attention to all our clients and a policy of empathy for the injured. Don’t wait. Contact Malloy Law today to get started.