Injuries related to heat stress killed 815 workers in New York and around the country between 1992 and 2017 according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The dangers of workplace heat are covered by OSHAs general protections, but the agency has yet to establish a firm standard that would provide recourse to workers who suffered injuries after being exposed to high temperatures. Workplace safety advocacy groups, climate scientists, union leaders and some lawmakers think that should change.
In 2012, a petition calling for a workplace heat standard submitted by the nonprofit group Public Citizen was denied by OSHA. The organization has since filed a second petition that is still pending. However, a request for information about heat-related illnesses issued by OSHA in June 2021 suggests the agency is considering a new rule. A Virginia lawmaker who believes swift action is needed to save lives has introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would fast-track the regulatory process. In addition to establishing a heat exposure standard, the proposed legislation would require employers to provide cool spaces and drinking water and limit the amount of time workers can spend in high temperatures.
Agricultural and construction workers
It is often people employed in the construction and agricultural sectors who spend several hours outside each day that file workers’ compensation claims related to heat stress. In 2020, researchers from the University of Washington determined that the average farm worker spends 21 days each year exposed to dangerously hot weather, and that number is expected to rise significantly in the coming years. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that farm workers are 20 times more likely to be killed by heat-related illnesses than workers in other industries.
Workers’ compensation claims
If you develop medical issues after working outside in soaring temperatures or inside in a hot environment, you will probably be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and make up for your lost income. However, the process involves official paperwork and strict time limits. An attorney with experience in this area could assist you with your claim and ensure that your documents are submitted on time. An attorney could also advocate on your behalf during the appeals process if your claim is denied.