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Can You Get Workers' Compensation For Heat Stroke Or Another Heat-Related Illness?

by Layla Bryant

If your job requires you to work outside in the summer months when the heat is unrelenting, can you get workers' compensation for heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses?

What types of problems are caused by excessive heat?

If your body temperature exceeds 103 degrees Fahrenheit, you can suffer heat stroke. Symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, headaches, seizures, and hallucinations. If untreated, the symptoms can quickly progress into organ failure, brain damage, and death.

Heat exhaustion is generally a warning sign that heat stroke is about to happen. Heat exhaustion can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue, and cramps in the abdomen, arms, and legs. Vomiting is also not unusual.

How can heat-related injuries be prevented?

The majority of heat-related injuries can be prevented by exercising caution when working in the heat. Employees should:

  • drink plenty of water during the workday, to avoid dehydration
  • take breaks in cool locations (preferably in air-conditioning)
  • use wet cloths or misting bottles to wet down their skin from time to time (so that evaporation can help keep their body temperatures down)
  • wear loose, light-colored clothing that reflects the light and heat

Are some people more susceptible than others to heat-related injuries?

Some workers are more likely to suffer heat-related injuries than others, depending on their age, general health, and how well they've acclimated to the hot weather (if they aren't used to working in it).

For example, people who are overweight or who suffer from certain age-related illnesses, like heart disease or high blood pressure, are highly susceptible to heat-related injuries. Their bodies already have trouble regulating things like their heart rhythms and many medications increase the risk of dehydration.

However, even younger, healthier employees can suffer from heat stroke if they are suddenly thrown into a hot environment without a chance to let their bodies acclimate to working in the heat. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have both begun encouraging employers to make acclimation a part of company policy in order to prevent heat illness among employees.

Can you ultimately get benefits from workers' compensation due to heat-related illnesses?

To get workers' compensation for heat stroke or another heat-related illness, you have to prove that working in the heat is what caused your injury.

If your employer failed to allow you time to acclimate to a new job that required you to work in the heat, didn't allow you to take sufficient breaks, or otherwise put you in hazardous conditions, your employer is generally responsible for your injury.

If you had a pre-existing medical condition that caused you to be more susceptible to heat-related injuries, your employer may try to blame your injury on that. Usually, your employer is still liable if he or she created a work situation that aggravated your pre-existing condition, but he or she may try to minimize the amount of damages that get paid based on your prior medical problems.

If you suffered a heat-related injury and your employer is trying to blame it on your pre-existing medical condition, contact an attorney like those at Parker & Frey right away to discuss your case.