A New Danger to Workers: Climate Change

A New Danger to Workers: Climate Change

Temperatures around the world have been rising for several years, and it looks as if 2018 may be considered one of the hottest summers on record. Extreme heat has already killed dozens of people in the U.S. this summer. For those who must earn their living by working outside in the heat, rising temperatures have placed them at risk. Several workers have already died during the summer of 2018 from dangerous heat conditions. Heat can also seriously injure workers who exert themselves for lengthy periods of time without breaks or adequate protection.

If you have suffered an injury due to another’s negligence, you can be assured that our attorneys, Mike Stephenson and Brady Rife, are willing to go the distance for you and your family, because we believe justice matters. Call McNeely Stephenson today or use our online contact form.

Heat-Related Illness and Death

Approximately 15 million workers in the U.S. have jobs requiring that they spend a significant amount of time outdoors, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When the heat index rises, these workers are at special risk of suffering in hazardous situations.

During the summer of 2018, some of those who have died while working in the heat include:

  • A 24-year-old Georgia farmworker
  • A 52-year-old Nebraska farmhand
  • A 63-year-old California postal worker, who died in her mail truck on a day when the temperature reached 117.

Those who often take the brunt of the heat—workers in construction, agriculture, transportation, and mining—suffer greatly. The BLS has reported that, between 1992 and 2016, extreme heat killed 783 workers and significantly injured almost another 70,000 more.

Is It Really Getting Hotter?

There is no doubt—the world is growing hotter. A study published in September, 2016, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports strong evidence that the health and safety of workers is at greater risk in both North and South America from the increase in average temperatures. Climate change both creates new hazards and amplifies existing ones.

Some of the risks the report pinpointed include:

  • Greater exposure to heat and the sun, which can cause heat exhaustion and heat stroke (often deadly).
  • An increased risk of flooding and extreme weather conditions, which can create disease problems like chikungunya, malaria, dengue fever, and Lyme disease arising from mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. Wet conditions can also lead to unsafe, deteriorated wood, and slippery surfaces that cause falls.
  • Extreme heat that affects building materials, creating more airborne contaminants.
  • Increased stress on those who respond to emergencies, including health care workers, due to the greater frequency of life-threatening events that demand their attention and energy.
  • The significant threats of an increase in common diseases and certain medical conditions, such as respiratory ailments and asthma, heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease of non-traditional origin, cancer, neurological disorders, and water-borne diseases.

The study’s suggestions include boosting awareness of the dangers of excessive heat, as well as improving worker protections. The work sectors pinpointed as experiencing greater hazards include construction, agriculture, emergency preparedness, health care, and hospitality.

Few Protections for Workers

When numbers are compared, the relationship between high temperatures and the rate of worker deaths from the heat move in lockstep—the higher the temperature, the higher the rate. But protections for workers are almost nonexistent when it comes to extreme heat. Only a few states have enacted heat regulations, such as California, Minnesota, and Washington.

During July, 2018, more than 130 groups banded together to ask OSHA for a national heat standard for the workplace and work conditions. As of now, if your work requires you to spend time in the heat, do what you can to avoid the sun, take breaks inside an air-conditioned location, and stay hydrated to avoid illness.

When others breach their duty, we keep ours.

State and federal agencies, including OSHA, have strict guidelines and regulations to keep workers safe while they are doing their jobs. In some cases, employers might ignore these regulations or fail to ensure they are properly followed. Where machines or equipment are involved, there can be questions of manufacturer’s defects, or there can be another third-party situation that requires legal remedy.

With over 30 years’ experience in handling on-the-job injury claims in Indiana, McNeely Stephenson is ready to put their resources to work for you. You may be eligible for certain types of compensation beyond workers’ comp to assist you with your financial hardship. To explore your options, call Mike Stephenson or Brady Rife today, or use our online contact form.