Study: Work-Related Injuries Spike with Rising Temperatures

A construction worker with a beard is sitting on a metal staircase, wearing a high-visibility yellow safety vest over a white shirt. He appears to be tired or in discomfort, with a pained expression on his face. His left hand is placed on his knee, and his right hand is resting on a white safety helmet.

As outdoor temperatures rise, more workers throughout New York may find themselves in the hot sun and sweltering humidity. Heat-related injuries and illnesses from rising temperatures can have serious and sometimes devastating impacts on workers and, oftentimes, lead to workers’ compensation claims.

How common are work-related injuries due to rising temperatures?

Researchers analyzed workers’ compensation claims and weather data from 2016 to 2021 across 24 states. They discovered that on days when the high temperature ranged from 85 to 90°F, the chance of a work-related injury was approximately 4.3% higher than on days with temperatures between 65 and 70°F.

The probability of injuries rose to 5.3% when daily highs reached 90 to 95°F. Additionally, the probability reached around 6% when temperatures exceeded 95°F.

According to WCRI President and CEO Ramona Tanabe, the impact of excessive heat is particularly significant on traumatic injuries, such as fractures, dislocations, contusions, and lacerations.

In the construction sector, the risk of injury was 14% higher when daily temperatures were 90 to 95°F, compared to 65 to 70°F. This likelihood increased to 20% when temperatures reached 95 to 100°F.

Workers in the South were more prone to injuries in higher temperatures, while the Northeast saw an 8% increase in injuries when temperatures were 90 to 100°F, compared to 65 to 70°F.

What are common injuries at work from rising temperatures?

Working in high temperatures can lead to serious health issues, including:

  • Heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and dehydration.
  • Burns from prolonged exposure to the sun or contact with hot surfaces.
  • Traumatic injuries linked to reduced concentration, fatigue, or passing out (e.g., fractures, soft tissue injuries, and lacerations).
  • Muscle cramps due to loss of electrolytes through sweating.
  • Heat rash due to blocked sweat ducts.

How can heat-related work injuries be prevented?

Preventing heat-related work injuries involves implementing several safety measures and practices. Here are some effective strategies:

  • Hydration: Ensure workers have access to plenty of water and encourage them to drink regularly, even if they are not thirsty. Electrolyte-replenishing drinks should also be provided to help replace salts lost through sweating.
  • Work schedule adjustments: Schedule strenuous tasks for cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late afternoon. Implement more frequent breaks in shaded or cool areas.
  • Protective clothing and gear: Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing to help reflect heat and allow sweat to evaporate.
  • Engineering controls: To reduce heat in indoor work environments, use fans, ventilation systems, or air conditioning. Also, shaded areas or canopies should be provided for outdoor work sites.
  • Emergency preparedness: Have a clear plan in place for responding to heat-related illnesses, including immediate first aid and access to medical services.

What should I do if I sustain a heat-related injury on the job in New York?

If you suffered a heat-related injury or illness while on the job, you may be experiencing serious symptoms and are unable to work. However, you have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in New York. However, the process can be complicated and requires you to act fast.

For example, you’ll need to promptly notify your employer about your heat-related injury or illness, get medical attention, and inform your doctor that your condition is linked to your job. You’ll also need to fill out Form C-3 fully and accurately.

If you’re not sure where to turn, you’ve come to the right place. For over 90 years, Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP has aggressively protected the rights of hard-working New Yorkers injured on the job. Our experienced attorneys help injured workers file claims, choose the right doctors, and obtain the compensation they deserve.

Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our workers’ compensation lawyers are ready to help you understand your rights and fight for your best interests.

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