Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Workplace injuries caused by heat exposure are preventable

Safety authorities say thousands of workers nationwide suffer heat-related conditions each year, including in California. Sadly, dozens of those victims do not survive the workplace injuries and illnesses caused by heat exposure. Although construction workers are most vulnerable, farm workers, warehouse workers, roofers and other outdoor workers are also at risk.

While excessive sweating can cause slippery hands, increasing the risks of workplace injuries or accidents, it also causes dehydration if the worker does not replace the fluids that are lost through sweating by taking in enough liquids. Workers should not wait to feel thirsty before they drink water. Telltale signs of dehydration include dizziness, weakness, muscle cramps, dry mouth, light-headedness and even fainting.

Employers can protect workers from excessive heat exposure by scheduling shifts for times when it is cooler. Also, workers must have access to hydrating sports drinks or fresh, cool water, and they should be allowed to take frequent breaks in shaded areas. If this is not done, a worker's body will be unable to maintain stable core temperature, and this could lead to heat stroke, which, in turn, could lead to death.

California workers are entitled to safe work environments, and employers must make sure that employees learn about the risks of heat exposure and how to recognize danger signs in each other. Also, they must understand which steps to take when they notice red flags. Legal counsel can help workers who suffered heat-related workplace injuries to navigate the workers' compensation benefits claims process for coverage of medical expenses and lost wages.

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