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Heat-Related Illness in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Whether you work in an outdoor setting like a construction site or an indoor environment lacking proper ventilation, it’s essential to understand your rights and responsibilities related to heat exposure.

As summer temperatures rise, so does the risk of heat-related illnesses in the workplace. While many people associate workers’ compensation with injuries such as slips, falls, or machinery accidents, heat-related illnesses are also a serious concern that can have severe, even fatal, consequences.

What is a Heat-Related Illness?

Heat-related illnesses can range from mild conditions like heat rash and cramps to more severe conditions like heat exhaustion and heatstroke. These ailments occur when the body can no longer maintain a healthy temperature due to prolonged exposure to hot environments, strenuous physical activity, or lack of proper hydration.

Common symptoms include:

  • Heat Rash: Red clusters of small blisters resembling pimples
  • Heat Cramps: Muscle spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms, or legs
  • Heat Exhaustion: Heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea, headache, and fainting
  • Heat Stroke: High body temperature (above 103°F), rapid pulse, nausea, confusion, and possibly unconsciousness

Your Employer’s Responsibilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a specific standard for heat exposure. Still, under the General Duty Clause, employers must provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. This includes taking measures to prevent heat-related illnesses by:

  • Providing Water, Rest, and Shade: Employers should make fresh water available and encourage regular breaks to cool down and hydrate.
  • Training: Workers should be educated about the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to prevent them.
  • Planning: Employers should have an emergency plan detailing how to respond if a worker shows symptoms of a heat-related illness.
  • Monitoring: Supervisors should regularly monitor workplace conditions and workers’ health.

Workers’ Compensation and Heat-Related Illness

You may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you suffer from a heat-related illness due to your work conditions. These can include:

  • Medical Expenses: The cost of medical care, including hospital bills and medication.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for the time you’re unable to work.
  • Permanent Injury Benefits: If you suffer from long-term health effects.

What to Do if You Experience a Heat-Related Illness at Work

  1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Your health is the top priority.
  2. Report the Incident: Notify your supervisor as soon as possible.
  3. Document the Situation: Keep records of the work conditions, your symptoms, and any medical treatment received.
  4. Consult a Workers’ Compensation Attorney: If you face difficulties getting the compensation you deserve, a qualified attorney can guide you through the process.

St. Louis Workers’ Comp Attorneys

Heat-related illnesses should not be taken lightly. Employers have a responsibility to minimize risk and ensure a safe working environment. As a worker, knowing your rights and what steps to take if you suffer from a heat-related illness can help you secure the compensation you’re entitled to. If you believe you have a workers’ compensation case related to heat exposure, contact the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann to discuss your legal options.

Updated: August 28, 2023