Our workers' comp attorneys reveal what you need to know
Heat-related injuries are among the most common construction accident injuries. That's because construction workers are outside and often overheat due to dehydration, especially during the warmer summer months, according to The Wall Street Journal. If untreated, heatstroke can result in kidney damage, brain damage, and potentially fatal injuries to the heart and other muscles.
This is just one of the many reasons why construction workers need to pay close attention to how warm it is at construction sites, including humidity levels during working hours.
“At greater than 75 percent humidity, it’s harder for evaporation to happen off the skin,” Alexis Halpern, a physician at NY Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medicine, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal about heat-related illnesses and injuries at construction sites.
Consequently, construction workers and construction companies need to take precautions to protect workers from overheating and suffering serious injuries due to heat-related illnesses.
As experienced workers’ compensation attorneys in California who regularly represent injured workers throughout the state, here's what you should know.
Why is working in the heat so dangerous?
Heat, humidity, and other factors can result in dangerously hot conditions at construction sites. An estimated 5 to 10 million construction workers face health risks every day on the job due to overheating, according to EHS Today, an occupational safety magazine.
Staying properly hydrated and sweating can help keep construction workers cool in many circumstances. But even when construction workers drink enough water, it’s often no match for extremely hot and humid conditions.
The so-called “wet-bulb” temperature outside matters as well, according to The Wall Street Journal. The wet-bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be reached when water evaporates. Or rather, the more humid the air, the higher the wet-bulb temperature. When the wet-bulb temperature reaches 95 degrees or warmer, the body loses its ability to cool itself through sweating. As a result, even if someone drinks enough water, they could still suffer from heat-related illness in such hot, humid conditions.
How common are heat-related injuries?
Each year, nearly 80,000 construction workers sustain work-related injuries or illnesses that result in missed days of work, according to annual workplace injury statistics compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Precise numbers about how many work-related injuries nationwide involving excessive heat were not available. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) notes that injuries and illness from heat exposure remain a serious problem for all workers in all industries.
In particular, employees working in hot, humid conditions need to be especially careful the first few days they encounter such conditions. That’s because 50 to 70 percent of heat-related injuries and illnesses “occur in the first few days of working in warm or hot environments,” OSHA reported.
What are the symptoms of heat illness?
Construction workers and construction companies need to know the warning signs of overheating, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke. Symptoms can cover a wide range, including:
- Muscle cramps
- General weakness
- Inability to speak or walk
In addition, construction companies and workers need to be extra vigilant when the temperature outside exceeds 80 degrees. A worker’s age, physical condition, and other health factors should also be taken into consideration.
The bottom line – if you’re working at a construction site and something doesn’t feel right, tell your supervisor and seek immediate medical attention. Many heat-related injuries and illnesses can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Need workers' comp benefits? An attorney can help.
You might think you don’t need an attorney to obtain workers' comp benefits if you sustain a heat-related illness or injury at a construction site. Unfortunately, many workers' comp claims turn out to be complicated legal cases. Your employer might try to claim your heat-related injury or illness was actually the result of a pre-existing medical condition, not due to unsafe working conditions. In addition, your employer’s insurance company may take a similar approach and purposefully delay or deny your claim.
The workers’ compensation attorneys at McLaughlin & Sanchez in California know how to deal with these types of complex cases. We have an in-depth understanding of state and federal workplace safety rules and regulations with regard to working in excessive heat. We know how to negotiate effectively with insurance companies and their attorneys. That’s why we have such a strong track record of securing settlements and verdicts for injury victims and their families.
Discover how our legal team can help if you or a loved one sustained a serious heat-related injury or illness at a construction site. Contact our law firm and schedule your free case evaluation at one of our three California office locations in San Diego, Chula Vista, or Temecula.