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Study Shows Higher Temperatures Increase Work Injury Risk

A construction worker is standing outdoors, appearing exhausted. He is holding a yellow hard hat in his left hand and wiping sweat from his forehead with his right arm.

A groundbreaking study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) has uncovered a link between rising outdoor temperatures and an increased risk of workplace injuries. The findings shed light on the urgent need for employers and policymakers to take proactive measures to safeguard employees from the risk of work injuries due to higher temperatures.

How do higher temperatures affect injuries?

The WCRI study focused on workers' compensation claims and weather data spanning 24 states from 2016 to 2021. Researchers found that on days when the temperature climbed to 85-90°F, the probability of a work-related injury jumped by 4.3% compared to days with highs between 65-70°F.

When daily high temperatures reached 90-95°F, the chance of a workplace injury rose by 5.3%. Alarmingly, on days when the thermometer soared above 95°F, the injury likelihood spiked to around 6%. According to WCRI President and CEO Ramona Tanabe, excessive heat disproportionately affects traumatic injuries, including fractures, dislocations, contusions, and lacerations.

Which industries and regions are most affected by higher temperatures?

The WCRI study revealed that certain industries and regions bear the brunt of heat-related workplace injuries. The construction sector, in particular, faces a significantly heightened risk when temperatures soar. On days when the high reaches 90-95°F, construction workers are 14% more likely to suffer an injury compared to days with highs of 65-70°F. Shockingly, with temperatures between 95-100°F, the injury probability skyrockets to 20% higher than on milder days.

Geographically, the workers in the South are especially vulnerable to heat-related injuries and illnesses. This finding is hardly surprising, given the consistently high temperatures that characterize the southern states. However, the Northeast also experiences a notable uptick in workplace injuries when the heat intensifies. On days when the high temperature ranges from 90-100°F, workers in the Northeast see an 8% increase in injuries compared to days with highs of 65-70°F.

What are common worker injuries and illnesses from higher temperatures?

Extreme heat exposure puts workers at risk for various injuries and illnesses that can have serious consequences. Some of the most common injuries and health conditions from higher temperatures include:

  • Heat exhaustion: This condition develops when the body loses too much water and salt through excessive sweating. It leads to heavy sweating, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea, and fainting.
  • Heat stroke: This is a life-threatening emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body's temperature regulation system fails, resulting in a high fever, hot and dry skin, rapid heartbeat, and neurological symptoms such as confusion or loss of consciousness.
  • Dehydration: When workers don't replace the fluids lost through sweating, they may experience thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, and dark-colored urine. In severe cases, dehydration can trigger painful muscle cramps called heat cramps, which often affect the legs, arms, and abdomen.
  • Rhabdomyolysis: This potentially deadly condition results from the breakdown of muscle tissue due to extreme heat exposure. As muscle fibers disintegrate, they release myoglobin into the bloodstream. This can lead to kidney damage and failure if not addressed swiftly.
  • Burns: Contact with hot surfaces such as machinery or asphalt can cause painful and debilitating burns.
  • Injuries from accidents: Heat stress can cloud judgment and impair coordination, increasing the likelihood of slips, falls, and other preventable work accidents. Fatigue from working in hot conditions can also compromise workers' ability to perform tasks safely and efficiently.

Don't let a workplace injury jeopardize your future. Contact us today

If you have suffered a heat-related injury or illness on the job, act quickly to protect your rights and secure the workers' compensation benefits you deserve. The Mississippi attorneys at Tabor Law Firm, P.A. are here to fight for you every step of the way and ensure your claim gets filed without any errors.

We work tirelessly to build strong workers' comp cases and advocate for our clients. Our goal is to ensure you receive the medical care, lost wages, and other benefits you need to recover. Don't let your employer or their insurance company deny you the benefits you're entitled to by law. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and let us be your voice in the fight for justice.

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