Workers’ Compensation Lawyer San Diego, CA

Heat Stress Can Cause Work-Related Injuries, Fatalities

An overheated worker rests against a wall

High temperatures can pose significant risks to workers, especially during the summer. In California, a state at the forefront of worker safety, there's a concerted effort to address this challenge. With approximately 20,000 occupational injuries per year in California attributed to hot temperatures, the state is taking substantial strides to reduce these risks.

California adds safety measures to better protect workers from heat

Industries most susceptible to heat-related injuries - such as construction, farming, forestry, manufacturing, landscaping, and transportation - are being prioritized in California's comprehensive approach. While worker's compensation benefits cover medical expenses and lost wages for those injured due to heat-related incidents, California is focusing on prevention.

Heat hazards on the job

Employers are required by the law to meet worker health and safety standards, but employees can take precautions, as well. Knowing the hazards before confronting them can reduce risk. Here are some of the most common on-the-job heat hazards:

  • Heat stress and heat stroke. Prolonged exposure to high temperatures can lead to heat stress, which may escalate to heat stroke — a life-threatening condition. Signs include confusion, nausea, rapid pulse, and hot, dry skin.
  • Dehydration. Working in the heat can cause excessive fluid loss through sweat, leading to dehydration. Severe dehydration can impact cognitive function, physical performance, and internal damage.
  • Heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion results from the body's inability to cool down properly. Symptoms include heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, and rapid heartbeat.
  • Sunburn. Overexposure to the sun's UV rays can cause painful sunburn, increasing the risk of skin cancer over time.
  • Heat cramps. Muscle cramps can occur due to electrolyte imbalances caused by sweating. Painful muscle contractions are common in the legs, arms, or abdomen.
  • Fatigue and reduced alertness. Heat can contribute to fatigue and reduced mental focus, increasing the likelihood of accidents and mistakes.
  • Heat rash. Prolonged sweating in hot conditions can lead to heat rash, causing discomfort and potential infection.

California aims to prevent occupational heat illnesses and injuries

Over the last few years, California has been at the forefront of implementing measures to protect workers from heat-related hazards. The state has an occupational heat advisory committee and recently approved meaningful guidelines as well as legislation, like the Heat Illness Prevention Standard, that may help protect workers from heat. Here are some ways California has been working to safeguard workers:

  • High heat advisory. During periods of elevated temperatures, the state and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue high-heat advisories, reminding employers and workers to take extra precautions like adjusting work schedules to cooler times of the day, ensuring frequent rest breaks, and closely monitoring workers' well-being.
  • Access to shade and water. Employers must provide access to shade and an adequate supply of drinking water to employees working in high-heat environments.
  • Cooling periods. Specific temperature thresholds trigger mandatory cool-down periods during which workers are allowed and encouraged to rest in shaded areas and rehydrate. For example, when temperatures reach 95 degrees or more, employers must provide agriculture workers with a minimum of 10-minute cool-down rest periods every 2 hours.
  • Illness prevention. California's Heat Illness Prevention Standard requires employers to take preventive measures, such as providing access to shade, cool water, and paid breaks, as well as training workers and supervisors to recognize and respond to heat-related illnesses.

What to do if you are overcome by heat at work

Even if you take the necessary steps to avoid a heat-related illness or injury at work, extreme temperature is still a health threat. If you sustained a heat-related illness or injury on the job, we strongly recommend taking the following steps.

  • Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Tell your employer you sustained a heat-related injury or illness at work.
  • Contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at McLaughlin & Sanchez.

If you or a loved one sustained a serious heat-related injury or illness at work, contact McLaughlin & Sanchez for a free case review at one of our three California offices in San Diego, Chula Vista, or Temecula. A member of our team can listen to the details of what happened, explain your potential legal options, and answer your questions. Our work injury lawyers are ready to help.

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