Can You File Workers' Compensation for a Heat-Related Illness?

Man with water in hot weather

Some lucky employees have the luxury of sitting in an air-conditioned office all day during the summer months. But there are thousands more who are subjected to high temperatures and intense heat and humidity during their workday, especially if the job responsibilities require work outside in the summer. If you are among the many who have to deal with unbearable conditions and have suffered from heat stroke or another heat-related illness, you may be eligible to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

Types of Heat-Related Illnesses

There are several different types of major heat-related illnesses. Here are the four most common:

Heat Stroke: This occurs when the body can no longer control its temperature. At this point, the sweating mechanism has failed, the body temperature begins rising quickly, reaching up to 106 degrees in 10-15 minutes. In addition to extremely high body temperature, other symptoms of heat stroke include confusion, loss of consciousness, dry skin or profuse sweating, and seizures.

Heat Exhaustion: This is the body’s reaction to a lack of water and salt, typically brought on by excessive sweating. Signs of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, confusion, thirst, and body temperature higher than 100.4 degrees.

Heat Cramps: Workers who sweat a lot may experience heat cramps in the calves, thighs, and shoulders due to loss of fluids. This can be relieved by drinking water or a sports drink containing electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Powerade, every 15-20 minutes.

Heat Rash: This is the most common issue facing workers in hot environments. Heat rash is caused by excessive sweating and can affect many areas of the body.

If you experience any of these heat-related illnesses, notify a supervisor immediately.

Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation?

An employee needs to prove that (s)he had to work outside for the job and that this led to heat stroke or another heat-related illness. Having to work inside a hot kitchen or a warehouse that isn’t air-conditioned may also qualify an employee for workers’ compensation due to a heat-related illness. In addition, there are instances where employees can suffer from heart attacks related to heat exposure. Because overweight and obese employees are at a higher risk for heat stroke, an employer may argue that the heat-related illness was caused by a pre-existing condition. Still, this condition could have been aggravated by work-related duties, so this may very well be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

Employers Have a Duty to Protect Workers from Excessive Heat

Employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are free of known safety hazards and are regulated accordingly under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This includes protecting workers from extreme heat, which means providing workers with rest, shade, water, and allowing workers to gradually increase workloads and take frequent breaks. They also must train workers on prevention of heat stroke and plan for emergencies, as well as monitor workers for signs of heat-related illness.

Contact Us

If you’ve been injured in the workplace due to an unsafe environment such as exposure to extreme heat, contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Fellerman & Ciarimboli to receive the compensation you deserve.

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