Most people tend to associate cold weather with workplace accidents, and though rain, snow, and ice can certainly make worksites more dangerous places, they’re not the only reason for increased accident risks. Warmer weather can also jeopardize workers’ health and safety.
At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., our New York City attorneys have helped injured victims protect their legal rights following all types of workplace accidents. From construction accidents to job-related motor vehicle collisions, the cases we’ve handled have involved all types of circumstances – including risks which arise or increase during the spring and summer’s warmer months.
Heat & Work Safety Risks
Risks for workplace injuries increase during months with longer and hotter days. Below are a few examples of heat-related injury risks:
- Heat stroke – Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and it occurs when the body is no longer able to regulate its temperature. Dangerous body temperatures and rapid increases in body temperature can become medical emergencies when left unaddressed, and may pose risks of permanent disability or death. Common signs and symptoms include a lack of sweating, dry and reddish skin, rapid heart rate, chills, confusion, and slurred speech.
- Heat exhaustion – Heat exhaustion is another common heat illness experienced by workers. The body’s response to loss of water and salt, heat exhaustion is associated with symptoms of excessive sweating, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and confusion, headaches, fainting, clammy or flushed skin, and muscle cramping. Heat exhaustion can indicate higher risks for heat stroke, as well as accidents and injuries caused by fatigued and exhausted workers.
- Tool & equipment injuries – Risks for accidents involving tools and equipment used by workers can increase during summer months. For example, sweaty hands and slippery surfaces can prevent a worker from holding onto objects, using machinery safely, or being able to see clearly when safety goggles become wet or fogged. These and other factors can pose risks of falls, falling objects, and machinery accidents.
- Burn injuries – Hot tools, metals, and machinery left in the sun can be heated to dangerous temperatures, posing risks of serious burn injuries to workers who use them.
- Dangerous substances – In some cases, improper management of toxic materials subject to hotter temperatures and sun can pose risks of explosions, fires, and toxic exposure.
Hot Weather Safety Tips for Workers:
- Drink plenty of water, even if you aren’t thirsty.
- Pace yourself, understand your limits, and take frequent breaks.
- Rest in the shade, out of direct sun, or indoors whenever possible.
- Wear sun protection such as hats or sunscreen to prevent sub burns, which can affect the body’s natural ability to cool itself.
- Wear light-colored clothing and proper PPE (safety goggles, gloves, etc.).
- Recognize the symptoms / signs of heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
- Be careful when touching or working with equipment that has been in the sun, and use gloves to protect against burn injuries.
- Eat small meals (especially meals with fruits high in fiber and natural juice) before and during work rather than larger, high-protein meals.
- Avoid dehydrating drinks such as coffee, alcohol, tea, and caffeinated sodas.
- Cool yourself off periodically by stepping indoors or using a damp rag to keep your body temperature down.
Employer Responsibilities & Workers’ Rights
Employers are obligated by law to provide safe working conditions for their employees, and to take reasonable steps that address any potential hazards which may cause workers harm – including exposure to hot weather and the sun. In fact, OSHA emphasizes there are considerable and known risks associated with working in warmer weather, and notes employers are ultimately responsible for providing working conditions which address these hazards and which keep workers “safe from excessive heat.”
Unfortunately, employers and other negligent parties (contractors, product manufacturers, property owners, etc.) may fail to take the proper precautions to manage risks faced by workers performing job duties in the heat.
These failures may be the result of failing to provide adequate breaks or sufficient access to drinking water, failing to provide proper protective equipment, or failing to educate workers about the signs of heat illnesses, ways to prevent them, and policies for responding to symptoms. In any case where mismanagement of heat-related risks lead to workplace injuries, workers have the right to explore their options for recovering needed compensation.
Questions About Heat-Related Work Injuries? Request a FREE Consultation.
Injured workers may have the right to hold employers or other negligent third parties liable for damages resulting from heat-related injuries and illnesses – particularly when at-fault parties violate OSHA regulations, the NY Labor Law, and their duty to protect workers.
Because every case is unique, consulting an experienced workplace injury lawyer is critical to determining whether you may have a valid claim for compensation, and what legal pathway (i.e. workers comp claim or civil injury suit) is most appropriate for you.
Our legal team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. is readily available to help you learn more about your rights and options, and proudly serves workers and families across all NYC boroughs and beyond. Contact us for a free consultation.