Each summer sees more extreme heat events that seem longer and more severe than in years past. Excessive heat can pose a dangerous risk for employees who work outside or in non-climate-controlled environments, especially in the already hot and humid summer seasons of the Carolinas. Moreover, its effects can cost employers as well as their workers.
The Higher the Heat, the Higher the Cost
A recent study of workers in North Carolina found that approximately 1.7 million – or about 27 percent of the North Carolina workforce – face high risks from extreme heat. Looking at the agricultural, construction, trucking, and commercial enterprise (for example, warehousing and gas station attendants) industries, the study found a positive correlation between hours worked with a heat index exceeding 90 degrees and North Carolina employers’ workers’ compensation claims for lost wage benefits.
Understanding Heat-Related Illnesses
Working in hot, humid, or poorly ventilated areas puts employees at risk of heat-related illnesses, especially when they do not get breaks or access to water or places where they can cool down. That can cause the body to overheat, leading to illnesses or medical emergencies such as heat cramps, dehydration, sunburns, and heatstroke. In some cases, heat-related illnesses can become fatal. If your loved one died because of unsafe working conditions, a wrongful death attorney in Charlotte can help you seek accountability and compensation.
Common Causes of Heat Exposure in the Workplace
Some of the most common causes of heat exposure-related illnesses or health emergencies at work include:
- Outdoor work during excessive heat events
- Indoor work in poorly ventilated areas, especially when working around equipment or machinery
- Use of personal protective equipment and clothing, especially in hot or poorly ventilated areas
- Lack of breaks or access to shaded or air-conditioned environments
- Inadequate training for workers to recognize the signs of heat exposure
What Jobs Are at Risk?
Jobs that involve working outside or in enclosed spaces with poor or no ventilation and climate control have an increased risk for extreme heat at work. These risks are only increasing as heat events become more prolonged, more frequent, and more severe.
Some examples of jobs and industries that will experience the most significant impacts from extreme heat include:
- Farm workers
- Construction workers
- Utility workers
- Truck drivers
- Package delivery workers
- Emergency medical technicians
- Warehouse workers
- Waste collection workers
Know Your Rights as an Employee
North Carolina and the federal government have yet to adopt workplace safety regulations to address excessive heat specifically. Still, as a worker in North Carolina, you still have the right to demand that your employer provide you with a workplace that does not harm your health due to extreme heat. You also deserve to request a break if you begin to overheat due to high temperatures.
If you suffer illnesses or health complications from exposure to excessive heat at work, you may also have the right to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Our workers’ compensation lawyer can help you pursue your claim. We can also help you demand safety protection and compensation for your medical bills and lost wages.
Are you in need of a workers’ compensation lawyer in North Carolina or a workers’ compensation lawyer in South Carolina? Contact Stewart Law Offices today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your legal options with a workers’ compensation attorney in NC and SC.