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Heat Stroke Construction Accidents

In the summer months, temperatures in Albany can reach into the 90s and sometimes even higher. Add in high humidity and workplace stress, and construction workers can suffer serious heat-related injuries, including heat stroke. Many workers are unaware that they are entitled to compensation when they are injured on the job, even if Mother Nature is partially to blame. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP, to speak with our Albany construction workers attorneys about your case. Heat related injuries leave many workers unable to return to their jobs, and they lose thousands every year. Get the legal help you need by calling us today.

What is Heat Stroke?

Too much heat is a problem for anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, body temperature should remain within 1 degree Celsius of normal so that a person can function without impairment. However, sun, humidity, clothing, and lack of hydration can conspire to raise a person’s core body temperature above what is considered safe.

As body temperature rises, a person can suffer heat stress and then heat strain. They are then at risk of developing heat-related injuries, such as:

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heat stroke
  • Fainting
  • Heat rash

Construction workers are at a heightened risk of developing a heat-related injury, like heat stroke. Construction workers are usually exerting a great deal of energy in an environment that is not climate controlled. They are often working outside, or in attics and crawlspaces that get very hot. This exertion raises their core temperature, which might be very high based on weather conditions already.

Heat Stress Injuries in Construction

In a 25-year period (1992-2016), 285 construction workers died from excessive heat in the U.S. This number represented a third of all work-related heat deaths. Unsurprisingly, these fatalities increased during the warm summer months.

Workers can die from heat stroke if left untreated. They can also suffer traumatic injuries if they faint or cramp and fall off roofs, ladders, and scaffolding. Other workers experiencing heat stress could become disorientated and get struck by motor vehicles on the job site when they wander into its path.

Non-fatal heat-related injuries are also widespread. Workers suffering from excessive heat can suffer from impaired thinking and muscle fatigue, which increases the chances of a serious injury.

How to Reduce Heat-Related Injuries on Construction Sites

Worker safety should be a priority. Interestingly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has not adopted heat stress standards, although they have crafted a recommended one.

Workers should pay close attention to the clothing they wear. Heavier clothing traps perspiration, which prevents the body from cooling by the evaporation of sweat. There is an obvious trade-off, however, since heavier clothing that covers more of the body is a form of protection on jobsites.

Workers might need to take longer breaks to remove heavier clothing, like impermeable coveralls, and allow the body to cool. If possible, workers should wear cotton clothing, which is breathable, instead of a synthetic fiber.

Employers can also screen their workers regularly for signs of heat stroke. They should set up cooling areas where a worker can access fluids and shade. If possible, the area should have air conditioning as well. Forcing a worker who experiences heat stress to continue working is dangerous and leads to accidents.

What to Do if You Feel Heat Stress Symptoms

You should immediately stop working if you feel any of the following:

  • Dizziness
  • Fast pulse
  • Heavy sweating
  • Headaches
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Vomiting

You should immediately get to the shade, preferably an air-conditioned environment like your truck.  Loosen or remove clothes and drink plenty of water. If you are vomiting or feel your symptoms worsening, then call an ambulance.

Receiving Compensation for a Heat-Related Injury

Construction employees should qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for any heat-related injury. These benefits can pay for medical care to treat your injuries. Imagine that you suffered heat stroke and fell off a ladder. You could suffer a concussion, whiplash, and a fractured rib. You should not have to pay for any medical treatment; your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer should.

You can also receive benefits if you are too injured to work. Most injuries require at least temporary suspension of work to give the body a chance to recover, with more serious injuries requiring months off.

Workers’ compensation benefits are no fault, so it does not matter if your own carelessness led to an injury. Surviving family members can also receive a death benefit if a worker died in a heat-related accident.

Can Independent Contractors Receive Compensation?

It is much harder for non-employees to receive compensation for a heat-related injury. First, independent contractors are not entitled to workers’ compensation. Employers pay the premiums for this insurance, and it is unlikely that you purchased a policy for yourself.

Second, as an independent contractor, you retain the power of when you work. That means you should schedule your jobs to coincide with cooler periods of the day or year. If you choose to work during the middle of a blazingly hot July day, then you have assumed the risk. It is hard to blame a client for any heat-related injury if you chose when to work.

There might be exceptions. For example, New York’s Labor Law might cover you, since it provides rights to both construction employees and independent contractors. This law requires that jobsite owners provide a safe working environment, and you might prove that they failed at this duty. Our lawyers need to know more about your case.

You might also be able to bring a third-party lawsuit against a manufacturer of personal protection equipment (PPE) if it fails to work properly and you suffer heat stroke or a related injury.

Speak with an Albany Construction Accident Attorney Today

The legal team at Powers & Santola, LLP, encourages everyone to stay cool this summer. Injured construction workers should also call our firm after receiving medical care. Let us provide an overview of your options for compensation and identify the chances of successfully seeking benefits or a settlement.

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