Heat Stress at Work Can Lead to Long-Term Disabilities for North Carolina Workers

Heat-related illnesses in North Carolina jobsites are pretty common when temperatures register as high as they have been the last few weeks.

Not only are heat exhaustion and heat stroke a major concern but so are accidents involving your vision, slips and falls, or losing a grip on a tool because your palms are sweaty. Gastonia workers’ compensation lawyers know that agencies are often making suggestions to employers on how to cut corners to save money on workers’ compensation expenses but we are here to make sure your health is not compromised in the process. Employees have rights and anything short of working in a safe environment puts accountability back on the employer for injuries or illnesses suffered at work.
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Insurancenewsnet.com reports that not only are outdoor job sites a concern when it comes to extreme temperatures, but so are workers who work in confined spaces or on large machines indoors. Heat-related exposure doesn’t necessarily occur from being in direct sunlight but can also occur from working in extremely hot temperatures for prolonged periods of time.

Dehydration is a common cause of heat-related illness or injury. In fact, when a person becomes dehydrated by 2 percent of their body weight it can cause problems with vision, short-term memory loss, calculating efficiency, and a reduction in attention span or focus. Reaction time can be minimized by 23 percent when your body reaches a dehydration level of 4 percent of your body weight. A worker can become much more susceptible to work accidents when cognitive performance declines from too much dehydration.

It is paramount that employees and supervisors be trained on what signs or symptoms to look for when it comes to heat stress. Some early signs to look for are crankiness, headache, thirst, or a good amount of sweating. It is important to know that each individual has their own threshold of heat tolerance which is typically based on body stature, weight, level of fitness and lifestyle. Most individuals wake up in the morning not fully hydrated. It can take as long as 24 hours in certain circumstances for the body to accumulate enough fluid in the body to become fully hydrated.

What most workers may not realize is that heat-related illnesses can sometimes turn into long-term disabilities. Earlier this year the North Carolina Court of Appeals warranted that a heavy machine operator could receive temporary total disability benefits after suffering a seizure while working at the bottom of a landfill pit. The employee continued to have seizures following his release from the hospital so the court determined his seizures were related to heat exposure suffered on the job.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration offers several helpful online tools to help with heat exposure and stress. OSHA has teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to provide weather service alerts in your area 24/7. OSHA has also provided a link to NOAA Heat Wave which explains the difference between a heat watch, heat warning or heat advisory and what to look for when temperatures rise into dangerous levels.

No worker can be faulted for sitting on the job when they are suffering from heat stress. Employees need to take care of their bodies by drinking plenty of water and finding a cooler spot to rest in during breaks. Using common sense and taking precautions can save you from a lifetime disability caused by heat stress suffered on the job.

If you have suffered a heat-illness or injury from working in unsafe conditions at work, contact the workers’ compensation lawyers at the Lee Law Offices, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your claim. Call 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

Managing Workers’ Comp: Taking Stress Out of Heat, by Kevin Ring, Insurancenewsnet.com

Cardiac Arrest a Common Cause of Death at Work in N
rth Carolina,
North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, June 23, 2011

Outdoor Jobs Create High Risk of Heat Illness for Winston-Salem Workers, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, June 20, 2011

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