According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, thousands of workers in the United States are affected by illness caused by excessive heat exposure while working outside. More than 30 workers died from a heat-related illness in 2012 alone. OSHA has introduced standards that New York employers can use to prevent heat illness among employees.
According to the OSHA act of 1970, employers must provide employees with a workplace free of known hazards that are likely to cause serious harm, including heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke. Employers who do not comply with OSHA standards for preventing excessive heat exposure may face citations of as much as $70,000. It is recommended that employers evaluate the conditions at all worksites while paying particular attention to employees who are required to engage in intense physical exertion outside or experience prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity.
According to a 2012-2013 case study, OSHA found that the leading cause of heat-related illness and death is a lack of experience working in the heat. Such employees have not gone through acclimatization, a process that allows the body to gradually acclimate to high levels of heat and humidity. Employers who do not provide proper acclimatization to new employees or who fail to provide proper safety requirements such as adequate water, shade and work-rest cycles may be held responsible for heat-related illness and death.
Heat-related sickness and death suffered while working in high-temperature situations may result in a workers’ compensation settlement or a personal injury lawsuit. Employers are required to provide a safe environment for all employees, including those who are working outside with significant heat exposure. If such requirements are not met, they may be liable for the injured worker’s medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages due to illness or injury and other types of damages.