Employees exposed to long periods of extreme heat, such as agricultural and construction workers, may be at risk of heat stress (or heat illness) and related occupational injuries. Common illnesses related to heat stress include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rashes. It is in the best interests of both your company and your workers to provide training and certain resources (such as drinking water and frequent breaks) toward the goal of preventing heat illness in the workplace.
Twenty-five states have adopted OSHA-approved plans for compliance with and enforcement of heat illness prevention plans. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a lawsuit if workers become injured as a result of heat illness. While OSHA does not have specific regulations for indoor workplace temperatures, the agency recommends a temperature range between 68 and 76 degrees.
OSHA Heat Stress Compliance Guidelines
Check your state for specific guidelines for the prevention of heat illness, since some states have more stringent heat illness regulations than the federal OSHA guidelines.
Here are some general guidelines recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:
Types of Heat Illness
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies the following five main types of heat illness:
1. Heat Stroke
Heat stroke is considered the most serious heat-related illness, occurring when the body can no longer regulate its temperature. The body temperature quickly rises and the ability cool off by sweating often fails. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability in the absence of emergency treatment.
2. Heat Exhaustion: As a response to excessive loss of water and salt, the body may experience heat exhaustion. Those who are elderly or have high blood pressure are particularly vulnerable.
3. Heat Syncope
Heat syncope is an episode of dizziness or fainting that can occur with prolonged standing or from suddenly standing from a sitting position. This can occur as a result of dehydration or a lack of acclimatization.
4. Heat Cramps
Heat cramps typically are a result of low salt levels in muscles as a result of excessive sweating. They also may be a symptom of heat exhaustion.
5. Heat Rash
Heat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating.
When to Hire a Lawyer
Getting expert legal advice when it comes to heat stress lawsuits can be crucial to your business. Contact an employment lawyer in your area now for a free or low-cost consultation.