Can I Get Workers Comp for Heat Related Injuries?
Austin Workers Compensation Attorney Explains Risk of Heatstroke on the Job
Heat is often overlooked as a possible source of danger in the workplace, but it can cause serious illnesses, injuries and even death. This is a common risk for those who work outdoors, such as in the construction industry. Especially in Texas, with its notoriously hot summers, employers must take steps to prevent heat related injuries and illnesses like heat stroke and exhaustion. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains guidelines for construction companies and other employers to minimize the risk of these injuries. However, some employers may ignore or overlook these requirements. Sometimes, the heat may worsen a worker’s pre-existing condition, even if the employer complies with OSHA regulations. In either case, you should be entitled to workers compensation benefits for these injuries.
Filing a workers comp claim in Texas is complicated, whether you are filing for a heat related illness or other work injury. Due to their complexity, only four law firms in central Texas handle these types of claims. The Law Offices of Aaron Allison is one of these firms. Workers compensation attorney Aaron Allison offers experienced, quality representation to those hurt on the job. He handles straight workers comp claims as well as non subscriber and third party claims.
What Illnesses May Result from Overexposure to Heat?
Too much heat can cause a variety of illnesses and injuries for any worker. Typically, those who work outdoors performing physical labor are most at risk for dehydration, overheating and other complications. However, indoor workplaces may also become dangerously warm if cooling systems are not maintained or cannot offset the heat of industrial machinery.
The possible injuries and illnesses that may result from dangerous heat include:
- Heat rash. This is a reddish rash that usually appears on areas of the skin covered by clothing. The heat causes the sweat ducts to clog, leading to itching and discomfort. Heat rash typically disappears on its own. However, if the sweat ducts become infected, more serious injuries can result.
- Heat cramps. After too much exertion, especially in a hot environment, the muscles may spasm painfully. Heat cramps may occur because of low electrolytes in the blood after excessive sweating, although the exact cause is unknown. Like heat rash, these cramps usually do not require treatment.
- Heat exhaustion. A more serious condition, heat exhaustion may result from dehydration or from salt depletion due to sweating. Symptoms include dizziness, fatigue headache, cramps, nausea, rapid heartbeat and confusion. Treatment includes immediate rest, plenty of fluid (but not alcohol or caffeine) and cooling measures. Serious heat exhaustion may require medical care.
- Heat stroke. The most dangerous of all heat related illnesses, heat stroke is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. It results from lengthy exposure to heat, causing the body’s internal temperature to rise to deadly levels. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, skin that is hot and dry, weakness and lack of sweating. Without treatment, nervous system damage, permanent brain injury and death may occur. If you notice symptoms of heat stroke in yourself or a co-worker, then call an ambulance immediately.
What are the OSHA Guidelines for Hot Workplaces?
OSHA maintains best practice guidelines for employers to prevent dangerous risks in the workplace. This includes taking precautions against heat related illnesses. According to OSHA, if your job involves exposure to high temperatures, your employer should:
- Educate workers about heat related injuries and implement a prevention program, including training on how to prevent these injuries.
- Provide cool water near the worksite. Workers should drink water every 15 minutes, and consume at least a pint every hour.
- Provide a cool and/or shaded rest area, and modify schedules to allow all workers frequent rests.
- Ensure workers are properly acclimatized. This means the workload should start out light and gradually increase to allow workers to become used to the heat.
- Have supervisors check regularly with workers, especially those at an increased risk of heat related injuries.
- Provide cooling protective clothing, when applicable.
Your employer is responsible for ensuring your workplace is safe from reasonable hazards, including the heat. However, if you sustain a heat related injury or illness, then you can usually collect benefits through a workers comp claim regardless of fault. This includes instances where heat exposure exacerbates a preexisting condition, causing additional injury.
More Questions? Contact an Austin Workers Compensation Attorney Today
Employers should not take the heat of Texas summers lightly, and should always follow OSHA regulations. If you suffered a heat related work injury or illness, you may be able to collect workers compensation benefits. However, the workers comp claims process is not easy. Just like the Texas heat, it can quickly become overwhelming.
Austin workers compensation attorney Aaron Allison can answer your questions, assist you with filing your claim and represent you in negotiations. He offers free initial consultations and contingency fee arrangements. Contact our central Texas law office today to schedule a meeting.